It’s the holiday season for many. This year, Melissa shares some of her family traditions for celebrating the eight nights of Chanukah. Yum, please send some latkes and sufganyiot our way!
Last night we celebrated the last of eight nights of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. People are often puzzled when we refer to Chanukah as a “minor holiday.” What do you mean minor? How can it be minor when everybody’s heard about it? You see the menorah alongside Christmas trees in public places and imagine it must be important to us Jews. Chanukah is a warm, happy holiday that takes place around the same time of the year as Christmas – it can be anytime between late November and late December. It is not, however, a major holiday like the awe-filled days of Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur. Families celebrate together at home, there is no strict religious observance.
In a nutshell, once upon a time there was a king, Antiochus, who wanted to take Jerusalem from the Jews. The Temple was destroyed, but the Maccabees resisted and defeated the invaders. To rededicate the Temple, they used oil. They had enough oil to burn for one night, but a miracle occurred, and the oil burned for eight nights. How do we celebrate the miracle today?
- We gather around the Menorah for eight nights and light candles. There is one candle for each night and the ninth candle, the Shamash, is used to light the other candles. We say blessings over the candles, thanking G-d for the miracle of Chanukah. Children enjoy making their own menorahs, and singing Chanukah songs.
- We eat fried food. Really. We gorge on latkes, fried potato pancakes, and jelly or cream-filled doughnuts, called sufganyiot.
- We spin the dreidel and win or lose gelt – usually chocolate coins. The letters at each side of the dreidel are initials for the words: “A great miracle happened there.”
- We open presents. Some families are partial to one gift per night, others have one large gift on the first or last night. We are somewhere in between.
- We are grateful for small, every day miracles. For our healthy children, for the food on our tables, for the warmth of the Chanukah lights that we share with friends and family.
To read more from Melissa, check our her blog – Catch Up with Daphne.