For This Japanese American Writer, Her Annual Hanukkah Party is All About Light, Love, and Mochi Latkes
“I wholeheartedly believe that when we adapt rituals to fit our modern lifestyles, we ensure they continue for years to come,” says Kristin Eriko Posner, founder of Nourish Co., a website that helps ethnically blended families develop modern traditions. When Kristin converted to Judaism before marrying her husband Bryan, she wanted to find ways to embrace and celebrate both their cultural backgrounds. “At the time, I wasn’t able to find much that resonated with me, and so I began writing about my own experiences,” she says.
In 2016, Kristin hosted the first of what’s now an annual Hanukkah party that her Japanese American heritage with her husband’s Jewish roots. As a guest in their home, the couple’s friends find traditional food, decor, and rituals reimagined in modern, intentional ways.
Rethink Classic Recipes
For Kristin, that means incorporating Japanese ingredients in the Hanukkah dishes, like adding mochi (sweet rice) flour to homemade latkes and yuzu zest (a tart Asian citrus fruit) to doughnut filling. Instead of a traditional sit-down dinner, Kristin serves up a build-your-own latke bar. “I set out an array of toppings,” she says. “Some options are classic like lox and créme fraîche. Others, like matcha salt, have a Japanese tilt.” She rounds out the party buffet with a simple crudité platter and homemade spiced nuts.
Get Guests Involved
Kristin uses her party decor as an opportunity to invite her guests to participate in one of her beloved Hanukkah traditions—lighting the menorah. Before the party, she asks her friends to send a photo of something that brought light to their lives during the past year. She prints the photos and uses washi tape to create a colorful collage. Before lighting the candles, she thanks everyone for coming, recounts the story of Hanukkah, and shares what brought light to her life that year. “I have found that as the host, being the first to show vulnerability helps others open up as well,” Kristin says. “We'll then light the candles and say the blessing together. I encourage people to look at the wall and ask each other about their moments of light. This totally shifts the energy of the party.”
Display Ritual Items in New Ways
Kristin modernizes the family heirlooms displayed at the party by adding a handmade resin tray to her menorah and wrapping the challah in a colorful embroidered tea towel. She recently opened an online store featuring handcrafted pieces including a Japanese-inspired porcelain ritual cup, challah cover, and blush tray that can be used for Jewish rituals.
Keep Cocktails Easy
In keeping with a cocktail-style party, Kristin opts for just one festive sparkling wine. “It seems like such a small detail but pouring one brand of wine really pulls things together,” she says. “When people ask what they can bring, I suggest beer or another type of beverage so there’s something for everyone.”
Help Serve Others
During her party, Kristin invites her guests to take a nod from her heritage. “In Japanese culture, it’s not polite to let others pour their own drink,” she says. “I like to implement this rule, and it’s such a fun and easy way for guests to get to know and take care of each other.”
It’s never too late to adapt new traditions—and Kristin encourages you to make them your own. Research your heritage or ask family members how they observe holidays and milestones. Choose the aspects of each that bring you the most joy and combine them into a new ritual. Then, invite friends and relatives over to celebrate with you in a mindful and intentional way.