Getty Images/iStockphoto

Happy Hanukkah, Jewish Festival of Lights scene with people, happy families with children. Vector illustration

Leslie Chen, Staff Writer

Christmas isn’t the only holiday in December! Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish holiday is celebrated Dec. 22 to Jan. 30. For eight days, families say prayers and light candles on a menorah, an eight-branched candelabrum. Each community has its own unique traditions, but there are several traditions.
The Hanukkah story is based on historical events that took place in 165 BCE Jerusalem. After the Second Temple in Jerusalem was deprecated by foreign troops, Jewish priests lit the holy lamp (the menorah), but only had enough oil to light it for one night. Miraculously, the menorah stayed lit for eight days.
According to Jewish law, Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days. It’s unlikely that families will hold a celebration every night, but they are almost certain to light Hanukkah candles and say blessings each night. There are complex rules on the placement of the menorah, the quality of the candles, and the treatment of the candle’s wicks after use. Each family has their own menorah. The central candle is first lit, and that candle is used to light the others each night until they’re all lit on the eighth day. Special blessings are said in Hebrew as they are lit; the candles are allowed to burn each night and are replaced the following day.
Food is also an important part of Hanukkah. Because the holiday celebrates the miracle of the oil, it’s traditional to eat fried foods. One popular dish is latkes, pancakes made of onion and potatoes. Other traditional foods include sufganiyot, jelly-filled donuts; kugel, a sweet casserole; challah, braided egg bread; and tzimmes, a vegetable stew.
While gift-giving is not part of the ancient Hanukkah tradition, many people have integrated this because the holiday occurs during the Christmas season. Some families give gifts every night, while others give them at the end of the eight-day celebration. A common gift to give to children is gelt, a coin-shaped piece of chocolate, which is used to play a Jewish game named dreidel.
The dreidel game is played by spinning a dreidel, a four-sided top with Hebrew letters written on each side. Together, the letters translate to read: “A great miracle happened there in Israel.” To play the game, players place bets using their gelt coins. Depending on where the dreidel lands, players can either
lose or gain gelt.
These traditions are only a small part of an important holiday for many.

Graphics Courtesy of KVELLER.COM