All About Hanukkah
Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights and celebrates the temple rededication in Jerusalem. During this time there was only enough oil left to burn for one day, but the oil burned for the eight days it took to create and consecrate new oil for the lamps. Traditionally candles are lit each of the eight days, on added on each day to celebrate this miracle. A Menorah is the traditional holder for the candles. There is an additional spot for the Shamash, which is the candle used to light the other candles.
There are specific traditions that are followed during Hanukkah. This holiday does not require Jews to refrain from normal activities, but rather adds certain ceremonies and prayers to the otherwise normal day. Families may gather earlier in order to complete the rituals. There is an extra prayer said before meals as well as during the daily prayer service. Often families will exchange gifts each night as well. Traditionally fried foods such as latkes are eaten during Hanukkah.
One important ritual is the lighting of the Menorah. The Menorah is traditionally set in a window or prominent place to remind others to celebrate this important holiday as well. The Menorah needs to be lit for at least a half an hour after it is dark. There are three blessings that are recited over the candles after they are lit.
After the candles are lit many families take the time read scriptures and to sing traditional Hanukkah songs. These songs vary based on tradition and family origin. The meals usually include food that was baked or fried in olive oil as another way to remember the miracle of the oil in the temple.
Traditionally children may play games with the dreidel. This involves spinning the dreidel and following the directions on the side. The game may be played with money or simple markers. The dreidel will indicate whether you need to put a marker into the pot or take one out. The rules vary depending on region or symbols. Children may also receive Hanukkah gelt, which means money.