How Do People Celebrate Hanukkah?
How do people celebrate Hanukkah? Well, for starters Hanukkah, or Chanukkah, is a Jewish holiday and festival that lasts for eight days in order to honor the rededication of the temple and the miracle of a day's oil lasting for eight days. Also called the "festival of lights," this holiday starts in December, on the 25th day of Kislev, a Jewish month. While less important among Jewish holidays religiously, some Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah with gusto because it occurs so close to Christmas. How people celebrate Hanukkah widely varies based on how secular, or non-religious, a Jewish family is, but certain traditions are often upheld.
To celebrate Hanukkah, you may want:
- A menorah
- A dreidel
- Gelt (small amounts of money) or other gifts
- Fried foods (like latkes, Jewish potato pancakes)
- Hanukkah music
- Many American Jewish families give toys and other gifts to their children for Hanukkah because their children's peers receive presents for Christmas. Also, some children have one Jewish parent and one Christian parent, and their families often decide to combine the holidays in some way. Some families, especially those that focus more on traditions, may instead offer their children gelt, small amounts of money.
- One of the most popular and traditional ways to celebrate Hanukkah is by lighting the menorah. A menorah is a special candelabra with nine candles, one of them a shammus, or "servant" candle, which is used to light the other candles. There is one candle for each night of Hanukkah, and the menorah represents the candelabra that burned for eight days with the miracle oil. Each night of Hanukkah, a family adds another candle to the menorah (starting from the far right) and uses the shammus to light it. Before lighting, it is traditional to recite three blessings.
- Another way that people celebrate Hanukkah is to play with dreidels. Dreidels are square tops that have four Hebrew letters (one on each side); these letters stand for the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days. Children often play a gambling game with dreidels for pennies or candy (including chocolate coins).
- Fried foods are eaten during the holiday to symbolize the oil. Latkes are potato pancakes that are fried in oil and enjoyed by many Jewish families, especially Ashkenazic Jews. However, other fried foods are prepared to celebrate Hanukkah, as well.
- Both traditional music and contemporary music are enjoyed by people who celebrate Hanukkah. More traditional music includes "Ma'oz Tzur" and "Mi Y'maleil," both of which have religious undertones. A more contemporary song, "Chanukkah, oh Chanukkah," is more secular in that it emphasizes partying and enjoying the holiday.
People celebrate Hanukkah in their own ways. Many families have their own traditions, and some more traditional Jewish families do not focus so much on the holiday. But many families share the traditions mentioned above, and celebrate Hanukkah a modern spin.