To most Hanukkah represents one thing and one thing only. Adam Sandler singing his infamous Saturday Night Live Hannukah song. But clearly there is much more to the holiday than what he classically called “Eight crazy nights.”
Hanukkah is actually a minor Jewish holiday that honors the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews fought back against the Syrian-Greeks. After emperor Antiochus outlawed Judaism in 167 B.C.E., the Jews retreated before re-engaging in battle. They overtook the Syrian-Greeks and wanted to “cleanse” the Temple by burning oil in the menorah for eight days. But they only had enough oil for one day, which by a miracle, lasted the eight full days.
The holiday has only “recently” become a major one largely due the commercialism of Christmas as Jews have an opportunity to celebrate the holidays with gifts too.
Beginning tonight, Jewish families around the world will begin the celebration in their homes at sundown (because Judaism uses a lunar-based calendar). Here are a few of the traditions you would see at a Hanukkah celebration:
The lighting of the Menorah – the Shamas (usually the one in the middle) candle is the lead and after being lit is used to light one candle for each of the nights of Hanukkah. Start with one candle on night one and move on to the appropriate number for each night.
Kids spinning the Dreidel – It’s a four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side that form an acronym meaning “a great miracle happened here.” Each side represents “take all,” “take half,” “put in” or “do nothing” as the children play for Hanukkah “gelt,” usually chocolate coins.
Fried foods – To represent the oil, you will likely find mountains of potato pancakes called latkes. Dip in apple sauce and you have pure goodness!
Gifts – At a Jewish home you are likely to find tons of presents. At least eight for each person piled somewhere near the menorah. But believe me, not every gift is an Xbox One.
So as you drive home tonight, think about how lucky the Jewish kids are this year because they are getting their presents starting 10 days before Christmas. But on the flip side, think of those same kids as you unwrap your gifts on the 25th while we look on in envy!
Cover image via lovefromtheoven.com