Hanukkah: 8 FAQS To Celebrate

holiday jewish

 

 

1. WHAT IS THE HOLIDAY OF HANUKKAH?

Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights and it remembers the rededication of the second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. This historic event happened in the 160s BCE/BC (before Jesus was born). ... During Hanukkah, on each of the eight nights, a candle is lit in a special menorah (candelabra) called a 'hanukkiyah'.

What are the basic traditions?

  • Candle Lighting each night for 8 nights using a special candelabra
  • Telling the miracle story of Hanukkah 
  • Special food traditions 
  • Gift giving to the children
  • Playing the game of Dreidl

Is Hanukkah a super important holiday?

Hanukkah is considered a minor Jewish holiday especially for the children. However, in recent years, it's become an important holiday to celebrate because of it's close proximity to Christmas. Today with so many families being of mixed Jewish and Christmas heritage, we are finding ways to integrate both into the December holiday season, especially in the United States.

 

2. WHEN IS HANUKKAH THIS YEAR IN 2021?

HANUKKAH IS SUPER EARLY THIS YEAR! 

Hanukkah is super early this year! 

Beginning the first night;

Sunday November 28

and ends on the eighth night;

Monday December 6

 

The first night we start lighting candles is Sunday November 28 and the eighth night is Monday December 6, 2021.  A celebration of light during the darkest time of the year.

Why do the dates change each year?

Christmas is always December 25, but Hanukkah is different each year. The Hebrew Calendar is both a solar and lunar calendar, where as the main calendar used in modern times is just solar. Since Hebrew calendar is based on 30 days, every few years, we have an extra month, like this year. Hanukkah is coming early in December this year, next year in 2019 will begin December 22 and run through the 30th, making it easier to celebrate with Christmas.

How do you spell Hanukkah?  Why does it have so many different spellings? 

The answer is that both are considered correct, though Hanukkah is the most widely used spelling, while Chanukah is more traditional. In addition, more than 20 other variations are recorded. ... It's really difficult to translate Hebrew spellings into English.  

3. WHAT’S THE HANUKKAH CANDLE HOLDER CALLED?

LIGHTING THE HANUKKAH MENORAH, ALSO KNOW AS A HANUKKIAH 

Why do some Hebrew candelabras have seven branches and others nine?

There are two basic types of candelabras used for Jewish rituals and they are called Menorah.   The special candelabra used during Hanukkah, The Festival of Lights candelabra is called a Menorah Hanukkiah.  It has 9 candle holders, 1 for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah and the extra candle is what we light first and use to light all the other candles.

The second type of candelabra for Jewish rituals is a 7 branch menorah, which is what stood lit 24/7 during ancient Temple times. It symbolizes the 7 days of the week and is lit on Shabbat [Sabbath] every Friday night. Most observant Jewish families light 2 candlesticks on Shabbat rather than use the 7 branch Menorah.

Is There A Special Way To Light The Candles?

Yes there is a special way to both add the candles to the menorah and how we light them. 

4. STORYTELLING: THE STORY OF HANUKKAH

What is the miracle of Hanukkah?

The eight day Jewish celebration know as Hanukkah or Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend,  Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. During the revolt, the Olive Oil that fueled the 24/7 Temple Menorah was destroyed, except for 1 bottle that usually last for 1 day, and miraculously lasted for 8 days. We celebrate the miracle of the oil lasting longer than expected and kept the ever burning light continuously burning until they could make some new oil, which took awhile to make correctly.

5. HANUKKAH FOOD TRADITIONS

Jewish holidays and festivals always have special food. For Hanukkah, we are celebrating the miracle of enough oil to keep our Temple Menorah burning continuously. Therefore, we prepare and eat foods fried in oil. Different Jewish traditions have different recipes. The similarity in all recipes are they are fried in oil. The Jews of Eastern Europe prepare potato latkes (potato pancakes) and the Sephardi, Jews from Spain like sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts)  Dairy foods like cheese are also popular. There are other foods traditions from the different Jewish cultures who lived in places like Middle East, and India. 

What are some of the different foods that Jewish from around the world eat during Hanukkah holiday?

 

6. DREIDL: WHAT IS THE MAJOR HANUKKAH GAME PLAYED AND WHY?

During the Greek-Syrian take over of the country there were a lot of rules and regulations that Jews had to follow. They basically WERE BANNED from practicing their Jewish ways. The Jews developed a game to alert others that the soldiers were coming to look for ritual items and any sign of practicing our Jewish rituals. 

Dreidl is a spinning top with 4 Hebrew letters one on each side, stands for the saying, Nes gadol haya sham, meaning A Great Miracle Occurred there. The Hebrew word for Dreidl is sevivon, means to turn around

What are the symbols mean on the Dreidl?  

7. WHY DO WE GIVE AND RECEIVE GIFTS FOR 8 NIGHTS?

Surprisingly, Hanukkah is a minor holiday and is not typically a “traditional” gift-giving holiday. However, there’s no reason to avoid giving gifts. Gifts are mainly for the children as well as the focus on celebration.

Unknown to most, the Jewish gift custom was originally only the holiday of Purim, which is in the early spring.  During the late 19th century Christmas became magnified and a national holiday in the U.S.  At this time, the gift shift from Purim to Hanukkah occurred as the Christian holiday's consumerism grew. 

Dianne C. Ashton, Director of American Studies at Rowan University and author of Hanukkah in America: A History, explains that the trend of exchanging Hanukkah gifts really took off in the 1950s. At this time, Jewish child psychologists as well as rabbis started promoting gifts as a way to make post-Holocaust Jewish kids happy to be Jewish, rather than sad about missing out on Christmas.

What is Hanukkah gelt? What are those chocolate coins in bags? 

8. IS HANUKKAH A JEWISH CHRISTMAS? HOW IS IT SIMILAR AND DIFFERENT

To many non-Jews, Hanukkah seems like an eight-day Jewish version of Christmas. Presents, lights, candles, miracles—it all sounds so familiar. It must be the Jewish Christmas, they reason. But the truth is far different, and quite fascinating. 

Hanukkah is a (relatively) minor Jewish holiday that celebrates the Miracle of Light. Christmas is the major Christian holiday. It combines the birth of the Holy Savior with the pagan festival of Saturnalia. While the holidays fall at the same time, the intention and reasons for celebrating each are very different, except that both holidays are during the darkest days of the year. They both have lights to add brightness during the darkest time of the year.

With over 70% of Jewish people marrying partners of different heritage and religious backgrounds, the Winter Holiday Season presents opportunities to celebrate both traditions.

How can you incorporate basic Hanukkah traditions while celebrating other family holidays like Christmas, Dwalli and Kwanzaa during the Season Holidays? 

Happy Holidays 🕎🔥🎉

 

JOIN OUR LATKE MAKING AND MUSIC PARTY ON ZOOM 

  • Date: DECEMBER 1 
  • Time: 6p Pacific / 9 p Eastern
  • Where: On Zoom
  • Cost: $25.00

Register on Eventbrite: Hanukkah Party

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