Recently, I‘ve been asked about Chanukah and how it is celebrated so I thought I would share a little bit about our Chanukah traditions.
Many of you may know a little bit about the holiday from Adam Sandlers famous Chanukah song that we have 8 crazy days of lighting candles and gift giving. But not only that, our ancestors were wise enough to select a very unique type of jelly filled donut (called a Sufganiya) and a deep fried potatoe pancake (called a Latka) as the Chanukah food of choice and I sincerely thank them for that.
When the kids were little, we would head to the dollar store and buy a series of small gifts so that they would have something new to open every day. As they got older and wiser to our sneaky dollar store ways, it made more sense to start buying only one gift, but that one gift would be impactful. That one thing that they waited for all year long.
While there is no Christmas tree or Christmas meal, our Chanukah evenings from my childhood are fondly remembered and continue to be a tradition I celebrate in my home with my children. Each night, we light a candle on a candelabra referred to as a Menorah. Each night one additional candle is lit. While we light the candles, we sing songs celebrating the holiday, we gather with family and friends in the candle lighting and we stuff ourselves with Latkes and Sufganiyot. The little kids play games with an item called a dreidel (a four sided top with jewish letters on each side) and there are an assortment of dreidel games and the kids can be occupied endlessly trying to get just the right spin on their dreidel.
What’s the point of this holiday? It commemorates a miracle that happened millions of years ago when the jews were exiled from a Jewish Temple and it was taken over by a Syrian Greek Emperor named Antiochus. He ordered the jewish people to worship Greek gods and eat the flesh of a pig which in Jewish tradition is forbidden. Mattityahu, a high preist led the charge to fight against the Greeks and eventually succeeded in retaking of the temple. His group of warriors later became known as the Maccabees.
Because the temple had been spiritually defiled by being used to worship foreign gods and the sacrifice of many pigs in the temple, it was deemed that in order to purify the temple, they would need to burn a ritual oil for 8 days. Unfortunately, they discovered that there was only enough oil left to burn for one day. They lit the menorah anyway and to their amazement, the Menorah burned for 8 straight days. This is the miracle of Chanukkah and why we light candles for 8 days in a row, each night adding one candle until the 8th day when all 8 are lit.
Chanukah is the celebration of a miracle, and it’s the perfect excuse for some deep fried food and family and friends time.