Mostly everybody finds holidays stressful for one reason or another — the combination of family time, cooking huge meals (and cleaning up afterwards), and managing expectations with reality can drive anybody up a well-decorated wall. But for introverts, they can be even more trying. Those of us who get completely drained by social situations can find it hard to feel joy during a holiday that requires you to play catch-up with all your second cousins or go to a community gathering with a bunch of people you haven’t seen since high school.
That’s why I’m so grateful for Hanukkah.
Hanukkah — our mighty little minor holiday celebrating an ancient fight against assimilation, the miracle of oil, and a widow who got an evil leader drunk on wine and cheese in order to behead him (yep) — doesn’t require any of the fanfare so many other holidays do. In fact, it’s the ideal situation for introverts, anybody with social anxiety, or good ole’ homebodies who’d just rather not brave the cold for, well, anything. Here’s why.
1. No synagogue, no problem.
There are plenty of reasons why you might not want to go to synagogue, like the fact that you don’t belong to one, but the miracle of Hanukkah is that you really don’t have to. Unlike Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which heavily feature synagogue attendance as a prime way to observe the holy days, there are no special Hanukkah synagogue services. This means you don’t have to feel guilty about not going to a place that might push all your introvert buttons and leave you wondering when you’ll be able to escape back home and put on your Hanukkah PJs (you do have Hanukkah PJs, right?).
2. No super stressful meals.
Coming right off of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah is the ultimate holiday reprieve when it comes to big meals. Unlike Passover with its unruly seders (seder literally means “order” but I’ve never been to one that wasn’t total chaos) or the Yom Kippur break-fast where you have to schmooze over bagels with an old Jewish man who, after finding out you make a living as a writer, suggests you might want to jump out the elegant Upper East Side window (true story!), there are no ritual meals involved with Hanukkah.
Sure, there are latkes, but nobody’s forcing you to eat them around a fancy dining table. You can easily do an intimate latke party for two, or go totally solo and heat up the surprisingly delicious frozen latkes from Trader Joe’s.
3. Party optional.
Yes, Hanukkah parties are a thing, and I even wrote an article about how to throw one (despite the fact that, spoiler, I never have actually thrown one). But they are a totally optional thing. Unlike Purim, when it’s actually a mitzvah to get drunk and wild parties are the norm (at least in Israel), I’ve never felt like my Hanukkah was incomplete just because I didn’t don an ugly dreidel sweater and drink a gross Manischewitz concoction from a punch bowl. And if you do feel like going to a party, it will only take up one night — leaving seven gloriously unscheduled evenings to recoup.
4. Really, you can do everything from home, by yourself.
When it comes to ritually observing Hanukkah, all you need is a menorah and some candles. Light that bad boy right from the comfort of your own home, and invite over only who you want to invite over (which can be absolutely no one, and that’s totally fine). Eat latkes, or don’t. Go to a party, or not. Exchange presents with your friends, or just buy something for yourself. Spin the dreidel and win every time. Basically, do Hanukkah the way you want to do Hanukkah, and don’t let that typical holiday craze stress you out.
And if you want to be really dramatic about it, light the candles, turn off the lights, and sit by yourself in the dark while you watch them melt. Happy Hanukkah, fellow introverts. This is our time to shine.