Hanukkah (English translation: Dedication) is a Jewish holiday consisting of eight days and eight nights of celebration and often known as ‘The Festival of Nights’. It begins on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which can fall between late November/early December. This holiday is celebrated so the Jewish community can remember how their ancestors reclaimed the Holy Temple from the Syrian Greeks and then rededicated it to God. Here are various ways Hanukkah may be celebrated
1. Lighting the Menorah
The Menorah (English translation: lamp) is a nine flame candelabrum that is lit throughout Hanukkah. To light each of the branches, one must use the middle elevated candle which is known as the Shamash. The candles have a specific order they must be lit in and are lit after prayers before sunset.
*For students an electric Menorah is a great substitute in places where you may not be able to use fire!
2. Blessings and Prayers
There are three blessings and prayers to sing during Hanukkah. All three are sung on the first day and on Shabbat, only two are sung every other day. They are sung just before the Hanukkah Menorahs are lit.
Gifts became a part of Hanukkah in the late 1800’s, just as gifts became a part of Christmas celebrations. Gift giving during Hanukkah varies from family to family, some may do it every day, others may not do it at all.
*If you have a friend who celebrates Hanukkah, the first or last days of Hanukkah are the most popular days for gifts.
A miracle of Hanukkah is that the oil actually lasted eight days when it should’ve only lasted one. Oil fried foods have now become a part of Hanukkah to remember this miracle. Sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts) and latkes (potato pancakes) are the most common foods.
While these are common ways the Jewish community may celebrate Hanukkah, many families have formed their own traditions to pay respect to their religion. The most important thing to remember is that religion is personal to each devotee, and just because someone may worship differently to your expectations it does not take away from their own faith.