Tuesday, December 20, 2011

First day of Hanukkah!

Now, I'm not Jewish, but let's all wish our Jewish friends a happy first day of Hanukkah!  Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights and lasts for 8 days.  It is celebrated by light the candles of a unique candelabra known as a Menorah.

a Menorah

 One of the candles is lit every night of the festival.  But what about the 9th middle one you might ask?  Well that one is called a 'shamash' and it is there to be used, since using the Hanukkah lights is forbidden.  (for example if you wanted to light a fire or another candle, you could only use the shamash)

Other Hanukkah traditions include singing songs, reciting Psalms, and exchanging presents.  Customary foods eaten on Hanukkah are fried or baked in oil. (usually olive oil)  This commemorates the miracle of a small flask of oil keeping the flame in the temple lit for 8 days.  Some of the traditional foods include latkes (potato pancakes), pontshkes (jam filled donuts), and bimuelos. (fritters)

latkes (potato pancakes)

A tradition for children on Hanukkah is the dreidel game.  A dreidel (or sevivon in Hebrew) is a 4 sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter imprinted on each side.  The letters are an acronym for the Hebrew words "Nes Gadol Haya Sham," meaning a great miracle happened there."  In the dreidel game each player starts out with 10 or 15 coins (real or chocolate) or nuts, raisins, candies, or other markers.  EAch person places one marker in the 'pot' adn then the first player spins the dreidel and depending on which side it lands on either wins a marker from the pot or gives up some of their own.  For "Nes" nothing happens, for "Gadol" the player gets the entire pot, for "Haya" the player gets half the pot, and for "Sham" the player puts in one marker in the pot.

a dreidel (with "gadol" up)

So now you know a little more about Hanukkah.  If you have any friends who are Jewish, be sure to wish them a Happy Hanukkah!

If I have made any mistakes in this blog post, please do not hesitate to let me know!  I am always open to learning more. =)

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