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Chag Chanuka Sameach!

amy-hannukaHanukkah Traditions

Hanukkah is a Jewish festival that is observed to celebrate the victory of the Jewish Maccabees’ military over the Greek-Syrians.

Jewish Hanukkah holiday usually falls in the Jewish month of Kislev in December. This makes people believe that it is the Jewish Christmas. But, in reality it is a different festival, which has its own history and traditions.

Hanukkah is also known by the name Chanukah, so there is nothing to be confused regarding what is Chanukah? It marks the celebration of Jewish national survival and religious freedom. It is commemorated to honor the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem in 165 BC. It is also called the Festival of Lights, Feast of Dedication and Feast of the Maccabees.

The Menorah

hanukkah-menorah

Menorahs come in all shapes and sizes, but the flames cannot be too big; must be separated enough so that they will not resemble a pagan bonfire.

On each night of Hanukkah, the menorah is lit to commemorate a miracle which occurred after the Jews proclaimed victory over the Syrian armies in 165 B.C.E. When Jews came to rededicate the Temple-which had been defiled by the Syrians-they found only one small flask of oil with which to light the menorah. This flask contained only enough oil for one day, yet the lamp burned for eight days (by which time a fresh supply of oil was obtained).

– In Israel, the Hanukkah menorah is called the Hanukiyah
– Ancient menorahs were made of clay. They consisted of small, pearl shaped vessels, each with its own wick, which were arranged side-by-side.
– Today’s menorah, which stands on a base from which the branches sprout, resembles the holy Temple’s menorah and started to appear towards the end of the Middle Ages.

Latkes at Hanukkahlatkes

The most popular themes throughout the Hanukkah dishes are the use of oil. The oil reminds us of the oil which burned eight days instead of one. Latkes are potato pancakes made from grated potatoes mixed with eggs, onions, and flour, then fried in vegetable oil. The texture is crispy on the outside and tender within. They’re served hot and often dipped in apple sauce or sour cream. The Maccabbee soliders ate latkes made from cheese, vegetables, or fruits which were brought to them on the battlefields. However, they didn’t eat potato latkes, as potatoes weren’t available until the 16th century.

Sufganiyot – Hanukkah Jelly Donuts


Sufganiyot are jelly doughnuts without the hole. They’re dropped into hot oil without being shaped and come out in odd, funny shapes, then covered in powdered sugar and/or cinnamon. Sufganiyot are particularly popular in Israel, where they are sold on stands in the streets over a month before hanukkah begins.dreidel

Hanukkah Dreidel

The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter inscribed on each side. In America the letters stand for “A Great Miracle Happened There”. In Israel the letters mean “A Miracle Happened Here”. Each player receives a given number of coins or candy pieces. Before spinning the dreidel, each player puts a fixed proportion of the amount received into the “kupah” or kitty. Each player in turn spins the dreidel. When the dreidel falls, it will fall on one of the 4 letters. According to the letter, the following will happen: Nun – no win / no lose Gimmel – take all (from the kitty) Heh – take half (from the kitty) Peh or Shin – lose (what you deposited) The game continues until players have run out of ‘funds’ or it is agreed to stop (anyone losing all funds is out of the game). The dreidel game was popular during the rule of Antiochus before the Maccabees’ revolt, a time when soldiers executed any Jews who were caught practicing their religion. When pious Jews gathered to study the Torah, they had the top ready in case they heard soliders approaching. If the soldiers appeared, they would hide the holy scriptures and pretend to play with the dreidl. In Israel the dreidel is called a sivivon. The yiddish word “dreidel” is derived from the German word “drehen”, or “turn”.

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