Decking the halls for Christmas is easy—just walk into to any gas station or department store and you can purchase enough red and green flair to compete with the North Pole. Decorating for Hanukkah, however, is a challenge. In order to burn candles for eight nights, you’ll have to burn a lot of gas first just to find them.
But now you don’t have to schlep all over town to get ready for the Festival of Lights because I did it for you. I scoured the back corners of stores everywhere to bring you The Best and Worst Hanukkah End Caps of 2011.
Each store below is rated from zero to eight lights– with eight lights meaning it has the best Hanukkah selection. (Note: The candle in the middle of the menorah is always lit, and it isn’t counted in the rating.)
T.J. Maxx, Marshalls & Home Goods – 0 Lights
TJX stores don’t get a single light on the menorah because they didn’t even try to get in the Hanukkah spirit–or at least not all of their stores did. When I asked an employee at a huge T.J. Maxx/Home Goods where the Hanukkah decorations were, he looked terrified!Surrounded by Santas and reindeer, he explained that only select stores carry holiday cheer for Jewish people, and they weren’t one of them. TJX consolidated their Hanukkah decor, he said, because last year each store only stocked a few items.
It’s so hit or miss that I wouldn’t bother. I missed at a Marshalls, but I did find a small selection at another Home Goods. Some items included blue nutcrackers and Star of David pasta. They also threw in Hebrew letter cookie cutters that aren’t even the same letters found on the dreidle.
Walmart – 1 Light
Although the Walmart I visited had an entire wing called the Christmas Shop, their Hanukkah section was a pitiful mess located in the craft aisle. Sandwiched between surplus Christmas goods and leftover turkey tablecloths, their Hanukkah selection didn’t even take up a full end cap. They had the basics like an electric menorah, candles, and some gelt hidden under an artificial flower, but I had to dig through a disaster to find it.
Check out the Hefty brand Snowman napkins that were in the Hanukkah section, compared to the full snowman set available in their Christmas Shop.
Pier 1 Imports – 1 Light
Pier 1 gets one light for effort. Instead of an end cap, they had an end table topped with an overpriced menorah, candles, and some Hanukkah confetti.
CVS – Two Lights
CVS sure has an idea of who makes up their Jewish demographic. I couldn’t find their Hanukkah section until an employee directed me to the end cap directly across from the pharmacy.
While you browse the pain relievers and canes, you can also pick up CVS brand chocolate coins for $1.19 each, or the Hanukkah gelt for $1.49.
The Paper Store – 4 Lights
After an employee thought very hard about where the Hanukkah merchandise was located, she led me to an end cap at the rear of the store. Their selection was small but thoughtful, including pretty gift wrap, craft projects for kids, and a box of Hanukkah cards that were actually designed after 1970.
iParty – 6 Lights
It wasn’t all menorahs and dreidles at iParty. Although they had a full mini aisle of Hanukkah stuff, they pulled the old blue and silver trick to pad their selection.
In between some cute finds like a “My First Chanukah” bib, they strategically stocked anything that was blue, white, silver or gold.
Christmas Tree Shops – 7 Lights
Welcome to tchotchke central. If you’re looking for fake gem encrusted dreidles, Hanukkah hot chocolate kits, and Star of David teddy bears, you’ve come to the right place. And it’s all for the dirt cheap prices you’ve come to love from the Christmas Tree Shops, like paper goods for just $1. The only downfall is the quality is what you’d expect from them too. Good thing whatever you buy only needs to last eight nights.
Target – 8 Lights
It’s a miracle! Target is on target with Hanukkah this year. They actually had their Hanukkah decorations in the holiday section side by side with the Christmas wares.
Although they were a bit pricier than the Christmas Tree Shops, Target’s selection was modern, unique, and better quality. They’ve got the best one-stop-Hanukkah-shop I found (but I’d still buy the paper goods at the Christmas Tree Shops, you can’t beat a buck)!
Photos by Jonathan Barbato