December 17, 2014

Chanukah: The Festival of Lights

Yesterday was the first night of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights.

Chanukah means “dedication,” because the holiday commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews defeated the Syrian-Greeks. After the victory, there was only enough oil in the Temple to light the menorah for one day. Yet, miraculously, the oil lasted eight days. Hence, eight nights of Chanukah, when we light candles, each from one middle or main candle called the shammus.

Menorah - Mohawk Homescapes

This menorah is my husband’s, which he got on a trip to Israel.

Menorah mat - Mohawk Homescapes

The menorah sits on a mat that my son made. The mat is laminated and thus keeps the wax from getting on the counter. I love the bright colors.

On Chanukah, the kids play dreidel, which is a game with a top, such as those in the jar below.

Christmas apples and dreidels - Mohawk Homescapes

You play dreidel with gelt, or chocolate coins (you can also play for Cheerios or pennies – we’ve done that before!). Each side of the dreidel has a Hebrew letter and the letter determines whether you get coins or have to give them back. The letters stand for the first letters of the Hebrew words in the statement, “A great miracle happened there.”

Because Chanukah is about how the oil miraculously lasted for eight days, the food for Chanukah centers around oil. We eat fried potato pancakes, called latkes. Take shredded potatoes and onion and fry them in patties. We eat them with sour cream, applesauce, or ketchup.


Some also eat fried doughnuts called sufganiyot, which are jelly-filled and covered in powdered sugar (yum).

Chanukah isn’t really a major holiday in the Jewish faith. It has become a sort of corollary to Christmas, with kids getting a gift on each night.

Happy Chanukah to those celebrating! Happy Holidays and peace to all!

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