Hanukkah is known as the “Festival of Lights” and is celebrated both by Jewish people around the world, and sympathizing non-Jews alike. It is an eight-day holiday, which starts on the 25th day of Kislev, which is a month in the Hebrew calendar that typically falls between late November and late December of the Gregorian calendar. The purpose of Hanukkah is to commemorate the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century BCE and the “Miracle of Lights” that occurred at that time. While the overarching purpose and general timeline of Hanukkah remain consistent across different cultures and countries, the traditions surrounding them vary from place to place.
One of the most common traditions for Hanukkah is the lighting of a nine-branched Menorah, which is a lamp stand that symbolizes the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Starting with one lit candle on the first night, and increasing by an additional candle every night, the Menorah is usually lit alongside prayers and songs. Some traditional songs and blessings might vary from community to community, but the most well-known Hanukkah songs are likely “Maoz Tzur” and “Rock of Ages.”
The giving of gifts is another popular Hanukkah tradition. One of the more traditional gifts is gelt, which is money given in an envelope. The envelope is often symbolic, depicting many religious symbols and designs related to Hanukkah. Gelt is a great way to reinvest into the local community, since it is often purchased from Jewish stores. This is a great way to show support to both the religious and cultural roots of Jewish practice.
The game of Dreidel is also a common game for Hanukkah. It is an old Hebraic game involving a spinning top with four Hebrew letters written on it (נ Gimmel, ג Hay, ה Nun, ש Shin). The letters form an acronym for the phrase “nes gadol haya sham”, which roughly translates to “a great miracle happened there.” Players spin the dreidel and depending on which letter faces up, the individual will either collect or donate varying amounts of the game pieces (usually chocolate coins or gelt).
No matter which traditions are celebrated, Hanukkah is a festive time of joy and celebration. The miracle of the light that shines from within is something that can be experienced in all forms, and celebrated in many different ways. It is a reminder to us all that life is fragile and often, the most beautiful moments appear when we least expect them.
In summary, some of the common traditions for Hanukkah include the lighting of a Menorah, the giving of gifts, and the playing of the Dreidel. While the exact way of celebration may vary from community to community, at its heart, the holiday celebrates a miracle of light that shines against all darkness.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.