Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights. It is 8 festive nights where families comes together and celebrate. The spirit of Hannukkah, like so many other Jewish holidays, is filled with beautiful symbolism of hope and delicious fried food. Whether you celebrate or not, everyone can learn something from this inspiring holiday. Here are 5 things to know about Hannukkah.
The Miracle Of The Oil
Most people are familiar with the lighting of the menorah but may not know the origins of this custom. Hannukkah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple, which had previously been desecrated, after the Maccabean revolt. The story goes that after the Maccabees reclaimed the Temple, they found just enough oil for one day – except the oil lasted for 8 days. The symbolic lighting of the candles symbolizes the miracle of the oil.
Hanukkah Is A Minor Festival
Although Hanukkah is the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday in America, it is far from one of the most important holidays. It is considered only a minor festival, particularly compared to significant high holidays like Yom Kippur & Rosh Hashanah. Indeed Hannukkah places no restrictions on eating, working, attending school, or other activities.
Let’s Talk Latkes
It wouldn’t be Hanukkah without latkes. These potato pancakes are nothing short of salivating deliciousness in every crispy bite. They have become the iconic traditional food associated with the festival of lights. But what most people don’t know, is that they were not always the traditional food associated with the holiday. Jews around the world celebrated Hanukkah with other foods fried in oil to pay homage to the miracle of the oil, such as apple fritters, fried fish, fried apple rings, fried sweet cake, or a wide variety of other fried delicacies. Whether your family custom is to indulge in latkes or another fried delicacy, there is no wrong choice.
Light The Menorah
The holiday is celebrated by lighting the menorah. Each night after sundown, an additional candle is lit on the menorah. Until the final night, when all 9 candles are lit (one candle is exclusively used to light the others and is known as the shamash). Some place the menorah in their window to remind others of the holiday. Other festive activities include playing dreidel and the giving of gelt, meaning money or chocolate coins given to children.
Modern Hannukkah Traditions
Many Hanukkah traditions evolved over time and are unique to each family.
I was raised in a religious Jewish household, with predominantly Jewish friends, in a predominantly Jewish bubble of a town.
My siblings and I never felt as though we were missing out on the “Christmas Season.” In fact, we throughly enjoyed our Christmas Eve nights out at the local Chinese restaurant (a total Jewish who’s who scene) and Christmas Day movies.
Then I started a family with a man that was raised by a Jewish father and Catholic mother. Celebrating Christmas was a big part of his childhood, and it would be for our kids as well.
I was always curious how families “celebrated both Holidays”. I still don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know how our family has embraced both Hannukah and Christmas.
When Hannukah is celebrated in our home, there is plenty of latke eating, nightly menorah lighting, and a lot of gelt sneaking. When Christmas approaches, its more about Santa than Jesus. It’s the balance of having a Christmas tree covered in homemade mermaid and unicorn ornaments.
I would never renounce Hanukkah in favor of Christmas, but I understand why kids feel left out of what can seem like a national holiday. And I know how much it means to our girls to observe the holiday their daddy grew up celebrating.
For us, we celebrate at home. We celebrate by a gathering of friends and families to light the menorah, indulge with latkes, sing songs (burn little candle on repeat by my son), play dreidel, and of course exchange presents!
No we don’t do this for 8 crazy nights. Our family chooses one night where we get together and celebrate life & love as we perform the traditions associated with the holiday. One of our newer traditions is to read Hannukkah books, our favorite is Smelf the Hannukkah Elf.
Like Melissa, many Christmas days were spent eating Chinese food and seeing the latest releases at the movie theater, a somewhat sacred tradition. But now with a family of my own, we started new traditions that make the most of a day when everyone is off work to spend quality time with each other.
We hope you learned a little bit about this festive holiday. Happy Hanukkah Friends!
Source: Five Myths About Hannukkah
As the year wraps up, it’s always a good time to reflect on practicing gratitude, in case you missed it, check out Thanksgiving: A Reminder To Practice Gratitude.