If you’re anything like me, you’ve had this problem. You have a lovely menora for your annual Hanuka/Khanike celebration. Maybe a family heirloom, maybe something your kid made, maybe something you made as a kid. All year long it sits in a china cabinet or on a shelf, waiting patiently for winter to arrive, when it will be taken down, perhaps polished, and made ready with brightly colored candles.
This is usually the point at which the system breaks down, however, because–where do you put the menora? I mean, it’s going to rain down streams of molten wax, right? And it’s going to be ON FIRE as well? So you sort of need to plan for those eventualities in order to protect your furniture and flat surfaces from the ensuing conflagration.
- You could try a piece of aluminum foil, but the moment you try to move the menora (especially if it has pointy legs), it’s going to rip and tear, rendering it functionally useless.
- You could use an old cookie sheet, crusty with charred remnants of baked goods past, but this seems like an epic bathos in contrast to the preciousness of your heirloom menora.
- You could just risk it and put the menora naked on the countertop, fully prepared to spend your morning scraping off wax with an old butterknife, but be sure not to put it too close to a cabinet, shelf, or overhang unless you know where your fire extinguisher is.
You can see the problem here – perhaps you’ve encountered it as well?
Are you ready to make one? Great, let’s get started!
For this project you will need:
- An unfinished wooden tray – I used this one
- Assorted acrylic craft paints
- Gold acrylic craft paint
- A plastic plate or paint palette
- A foam brush
- Fancy letter stickers – I used these
- Mod podge gloss
- Optional: Fine or extra-fine glitter, any color
- Wide paintbrush
- A Sharpie
Step 1: Select two to three colors that coordinate well and squirt a good sized dollop of each side by side onto your plate or palette. Using the foam brush, dab the colors into the paint and then cover the entire tray (don’t forget the sides and corners). Don’t blend too much – go for a splotchy look! Or get creative and paint however you like! Allow to dry completely.
Step 2: [Have some baby wipes or a washcloth handy for this step!] Choose a contrasting color for the handprints – I recommend sticking with the same color scheme but going much darker. [Note: Form the menora toward the top part of the tray so there is room for your family’s name at the bottom!] Using the paintbrush, swipe a good coat onto your child’s flat hand. Follow the example to the right to place one handprint on the tray, thumb pointing up. Wipe hand! Repeat with the other hand, overlapping the thumbs. Wipe hand again! If any big gaps are missing in the handprints, gently apply dabs of paint with the foam brush to fill them in.
If you have more than one kiddo, start with your oldest/biggest kid, then have your next oldest/biggest kiddo make another set of handprints on top of the first – repeat until you’re out of kids!
NOTE: If you’re an Xmas celebrator and want to partake of this craft, don’t worry! You could easily turn your child’s handprint into an Xmas tree or Santa and use this tray or a festive votive display or Yule log!
Step 3: Squirt a little gold paint onto your palette. Using their index finger, have your child dab a “flame” above the tips of all eight fingers and the combined thumb, mirroring the nine flames of a fully lit menora.
Step 4: Collect all the letters for your family’s name (or your child’s first name, or another meaningful word or phrase), remove the backing, and stick them below the menora along the bottom of the tray. The letters we used came with decorative flowers, so of COURSE we had to stick a bunch of those on as well.
Step 5: Once the handprints are good and dry, mix a generous helping of glitter (if you’re into that sort of thing) into several tablespoons of Mod Podge. Use the paintbrush to coat the entire tray evenly with no drips. Give some extra love to the sticky letters and press down on them to ensure that they remain adhered as the Mod Podge dries. Feel free to do two coats if it strikes your fancy.
Step 6: Once everything is nice and dry, turn the tray over. For posterity, using the Sharpie, write your children’s names and ages at the time when they made their handprints.
Step 7: Place one or two menoras on the tray. Grab – or make! – some candles and place the appropriate number. Light the lights. Feel the hope. Note the lack of anxiety due to drippage or imminent house fires. After the holiday season is complete, store the tray with your other heirlooms. As with your precious menora, watch the wax drippings build up over time as a symbol of our yearly return to this enduring human gesture: the desire to bring ever-more light into the darkest of days, when our weary souls need it most.
For additional reading:
- You can celebrate anything you want: Reconciling our “December differences” for families of many cultures and faiths
- Sunrise, sunset: Mourning who our children once were, welcoming who they are becoming
- What love smells like: On bathing with my daughter
Rebekka Helford is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Los Angeles, California. With over a decade of experience working with parents and young children, Rebekka specializes in short-term intensive parenting consultation, using a variety of tools including home, office, and school visits to help families navigate developmental hiccups and get back on track.
Click here to schedule an appointment or contact Rebekka with a question – who knows, she might even answer it in her next post!