December brings several holidays with it, and I know that my family loves to learn about different celebrations!
Sunday, December 22nd, at sundown, begins the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (or Chanukah), also known as the Festival of Lights. This eight-day celebration commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after Judah the Macabees' victory over the Syrian-Greeks.
- Lighting the menorah: When the Jews attempted to re-dedicate and purify the temple, there was one small jug of oil - only enough to burn for one night. The miracle of Hanukkah - the oil lasted 8 nights! Every year it is customary to commemorate the miracle of the Hanukkah oil by lighting candles on a hanukkiyah, also known as a menorah. The Hanukkah menorah is lit every night for eight nights.
- Playing dreidel: Hanukkah isn't complete without spinning the dreidel, which is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters written on each side. Each letter calls for a different action. The game is played with Gelt, chocolate coins covered with tin foil, or pretzel sticks, raisins, or whatever you like. Check out our How to Play Dreidel article HERE!
- Eating fried foods: Because Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes and sufganiyot during the holiday. Latkes are pancakes made out of potatoes and onions, which are fried in oil. They take a very long time to make and stink up your entire kitchen, but are so yummy! I have never made homemade sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts) but they are also popular.
Other things we like to do
- Decorate: The kids love to decorate the house. I am sure it is similar to your house with homemade decorations. We love unpacking them each year and seeing all the presents the kids made for me from years back!
- Read Holiday Books: There are a lot of Christmas books out there. But believe it or not, there are a lot of good Hanukkah books too! We break out our collection every year.
- Give Presents: Well, this is the kids' favorite part. Each year I say I am not going to give a present each night, but each year I do. We try to keep it reasonable - new books, pajamas, a game, a puzzle and we always adopt a less-fortunate person in the community.
- Spend Quality Family Time: Each night of Hanukkah we try to do a family activity. It is not so easy during the school week and in between sports practices. We play games, bake, do crafts, tell stories, do a puzzle, listen to music and take a ride to see Christmas lights. Holidays are about spending time with those you love and we get eight nights to enjoy!
If you have a Jewish friend, wish her a Happy Hanukkah and drop in to taste the latkes and spin the dreidel!
Find more Hanukkah articles in our Wonderful Winter Guide!