I made this little menorah for a friend.
WHY: “Menorah-saurus” was the punchline during a post-prandial chat at Carnegie Deli last month. Someone—his wits dulled by a surfeit of latkes—remarked that this was the first time “in thousands of years” that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincided. And then my husband snarked an even more egregious anachronism, “Yeah, in the age of the dinosaurs, they used to light a menorah-saurus.”
My latke friend’s gaffe was funny because he happens to be one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, but even so, it wasn’t enough to compel me to unpack the power drill and actually make a menorah-saurus. What was enough was the fact that he and his wife recently lost their real menorah—along with the rest of the house—in a Colorado wildfire. Latke Man needed a menorah-saurus pronto, well in time for this year’s untimely Hanukkah.
Speaking of fire, it may not be terribly wise to add lit candles to a plastic toy, so be careful. I tried to space my candles far enough apart so the flames will not merge, and I tried to insert the plastic candle-holders perfectly level so that the candles will not lean and fall. Any menorah should be put on a fire-proof tray, of course, and watched. I once lost an English oak tea trolley to an unattended menorah because a candle dropped out and caught the thing on fire: no tray, no watcher. Now, that’s a gaffe.
THE STUFF: Target Dollar Spot yielded a stegosaur for a buck. Alas, the birthday candle-holders were not so easy to find. Where are they? When I was growing up, they appeared on every cake and cupcake. No gateaux, no matter how prosaic, dared show itself without candle-holders. We kids fought over who got to lick the gloppy picks after they were plucked from the frosting. And they were easy to buy: packets of pastel-colored, rose-shaped holders hung in the baking aisle of even the smallest grocery store, even the stores that sold all vegetables in styrofoam trays and that ran weekly specials on chicken necks. Where are these packets now? Last week, I ran from grocery store to grocery store in my hopeless quest, the fancy stores and the chicken neck stores. Dollar General: no. Dollar Tree: no. Amazon had a box of a dozen for nearly 5 bucks plus shipping, which ticked me off. I ended up buying a mixed lot of used / new candleholders on eBay. So, if you foresee a need for these things, start hoarding now.
While I waited for the eBay shipment, I found a modified version in a pack of candles at Party City. These aren’t the iconic, tacky fake rose pattern of yore, but a streamlined, cylindrical cup. The pick part is far thinner, so if you are working with a small dinosaur, you can get away with a teeny gauge drill bit. I liked this look for my menorah-saurus because a) the cups are more like real menorah candle cups and b) after googling Menorah+dinosaur, I found a great tutorial that already uses the flowery holders. (The tutorial is for a menorah with 9 separate dinosaurs.)
HOW: I eyeballed the placement of the 9 candle-holders (note the Shammash is distinct from the others), drilled pilot holes, and anchored the holders with Quick Hold Epoxy. (See below for Kosher Note.) The next day, I spray-painted with silver. Done.
My guess is that candle wax will drip all over this thing and ooze down the sides like confetti-colored lava. I wouldn’t advise trying to remove wax from a spray-painted toy, because the paint will likely come with it. You could, I suppose, coat the virginal menorah with wax-resist spray sold by people who sell menorahs online, but I think that’s getting a bit carried away with cleanliness.
The lava look would only add to the charm.
P.S. My First Grader thinks I’ve ruined a perfectly good stegosaur. Let’s hope Mr. Bill does not agree.
P.P.S. KOSHER NOTE: Heavens to Betsy, I’ve already heard from the Kosher Police, so I’m adding the caveat that this Menorah-saurus IS NOT CONSIDERED KOSHER BY ALL AUTHORITIES. (As if anything ever could.) Traditionally, the flames should be in a straight line, not stepped. The shammash should be the highest (or lowest) candle, yes, yes, yes, of course. But at least my stegosaur’s shammash is set apart from the 8 proper lights by virtue of its placement upon said stegosaur’s keppe. In my kosher book, it’s fine. Know this: if I used this baby with students, it would lead to a great discussion about menorah rules. Stegosaur Menorah = Teachable Moment.
MY OTHER DIY MENORAHS:
V-8 Distributor Cap Menorah (for car buffs)
PVC Menorah kit for kids to take apart/put together
LEGO Minifig Menorah
LEGO flameless menorahs for kids to build
LEGO and DUPLO menorahs for kids to build