Hanukkah is a joyous holiday celebrated by Jews around the world. It commemorates the rededication, or re-consecration, of the Second Temple of Jerusalem in ancient Israel. Central to Hanukkah are its symbols, each of which represents an aspect of the holiday’s history and observance. This article provides an overview of some of these beloved symbols.
The menorah is Hanukkah’s primary symbol. It is a nine-branched candelabrum that is lit each night of the holiday for 8 days. The menorah was meant to recall the miracle of the re-dedication of the Second Temple when one day’s worth of oil, enough to light the menorah for just one day, lasted 8. The 9 branches of the menorah symbolize the 8 days of Hanukkah and the shamash (servant) flame which is lit first to light the other eight.
The dreidel is a traditional Hanukkah game played by Jewish children each year. The 4-sided tops is inscribed with the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hey, and shin. The four letters together spell out the Hebrew phrase “Nes gadol hayah sham” which translates to “A great miracle happened there” – a reference to the miracle of the oil in the Second Temple. Traditionally, participants in the game would spin the dreidel and the letter it landed on determined how many pieces of chocolate, coins, etc. the player would receive.
Hanukkah gelt refers to chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil or other money that is traditionally given to children as part of the celebrations. Money was given to commemorate the story of Judah Maccabee’s payment to the Jewish warriors in his army.
Latkes are traditional Hanukkah foods. They are potato pancakes fried in oil, a reminder of the miracle of the oil in the Second Temple which lasted 8 days.
Hanukkah is celebrated with many wonderful symbols, each of which tells a part of the story of the holiday. Symbols such as the menorah and the dreidel recall the miraculous survival of ancient Jewish people in Jerusalem and are proudly displayed during this joyous holiday. Hanukkah gelt, given to children as part of the celebration, and traditional latkes make up the traditional food eaten throughout this 8-day festival. Together these symbols are used to commemorate a significant event in Jewish history and to keep alive the spirit of the holiday.
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Last update 2023-11-22. Price and product availability may change.