Written and photographed by Eli Chane
As a Jew, yearly holiday shopping is a struggle, with most stores lacking in their Hanukkah displays. Some just sell cards. Others just sell candles. And some have nothing. To investigate this issue, I visited seven stores selling holiday items and evaluated their Hanukkah selection. I visited Safeway, CVS, Walgreens, Trader Joe’s Pharmaca, Trader Joes, Draeger’s, CVS, Walgreens, Target, and Safeway. Since there are eight nights of Hanukkah, I will be giving these stores a rating out of eight.
After scouring the floor of the East Palo Alto Target, it was evident that they had practically nothing. They had a small card selection and a decorative kitchen towel that said “I love you Latke,” but that was it. I am giving Target an especially harsh rating because it was by far the largest store I went to. I asked a person who worked there if they had Hanukkah decorations, and they said that they do at the Mountain View store. I guess they only sell Hanukkah stuff at select stores, which would make sense in Idaho but not in California which has one of the highest populations of Jews in the country. Do better next time, Target. The Maccabees did not rebel so Target could disappoint.
CVS was okay. Not great, but okay. They had some candles for a menorah, a couple of dreidels, and some Hanukkah-related greeting cards. Given that the Menlo Park CVS is small, I did not have high expectations for this store. That being said, their Christmas selection was quite extensive in comparison to the Hanukkah items. Your Bubbe would not be satisfied with this store.
The Menlo Park Safeway was not bad. Safeway has a pretty good kosher section that they maintain year-round so they had some good Hanukkah food selections. They had latkes, gefilte fish, and matzo ball meal. Still, they did have a Jesus candle placed dangerously close to the kosher food section. Yikes!
Safeway did not have any Hanukkah-related decorations, but the store doesn’t generally stock decorations for any other holiday. I was really impressed by the card selection. It seemed that they had a permanent section for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs that say “L’chaim.” They also have a bigger card selection than Target. What really pushed Safeway over the top was that they marked the dates that Hanukkah was this year, letting passerbys know the exact dates and the sundown of Hanukkah.
Walgreens just had a few cards. So few it did not even warrant a photo. I would avoid Walgreens unless you want to be disappointed. They’re like your annoying sibling who “accidentally,” blows out the candles.
Trader Joe’s: 4/8
Trader Joe’s stood out because of their decorations: they had a big sign with holiday sweaters, including one with a menorah! Trader Joe’s sells gelt (Chocolate Hanukkah candy), but markets them as coins of the world. Ugh! Trader Joes also had some cards and halvah.
Probably the most surprising of the stores was Pharamaca. I entered through the back and was immediately greeted with a fairly large Hanukkah display. Their stock is very similar to Draeger’s but the items were less fancy, including a Menorah drip tray, which I thought was genius. They also had more Hanukkah related snacks, like star of David shaped cookies, than other stores including Draeger’s. Pharmaca is fairly small so I was very impressed with the amount of stuff they had. The display was in the back but hey, at least it was there!
Draeger’s takes the win. They had a dedicated Hanukkah display that had menorahs, gelt, dreidels, Hanukkah games, and some decorations. I went upstairs and was greeted by even more options. They had fancy menorahs, gift bags, and kiddush cups. It was more than just one shelf! If you are a Jew in the Menlo Park area, I highly recommend going to Draeger’s for all of your Hanukkah needs. I could Kvell about this store all day!
Overall, there were surprises and there were disappointments. There are certainly other stores in the Bay Area that one could check out but as far as Menlo Park and EPA, I would recommend going to Draeger’s or Pharmaca. That being said, Amazon.com is probably your best bet if you want to go all out. Although I am sure you will still Kvetch about their selection.