Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a beloved Jewish holiday that commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the celebration of religious freedom. In Germany, many Jews used to observe the holiday’s rich traditions. In particular, the last night of Hanukkah was celebrated with special activities and food.
On the last night of Hanukkah, many Jewish families in Germany used to gather to recite special prayers. They were often sung to the tunes of traditional guitar and fiddle music. After prayers, there was a ritual candle-lighting which followed the singing of ‘Maoz Tzur’ and the blessings recited while lighting the Menorah. After the candle-lighting, a traditional meal would be served. This meal usually included latkes and donuts, cooked in oil and served with sour cream.
In the evening, special Hanukkah games would also be played. The most popular game was the dreidel, a spinning top with four Hebrew letters embossed on each side. The letters signify the phrase “A great miracle happened there,” in reference to the miracle of the oil during the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. The game was played with a pot of coins or chocolate coins, and whichever player spun the dreidel and got the letters “shin,” representing the Hebrew word for “there” was the winner.
Aside from the games, it was not uncommon for Jewish families in Germany to enjoy other Hanukkah traditions such as exchanging gifts or singing special Hanukkah songs. The last night of Hanukkah was not unlike other Jewish holidays celebrated in the country; it was filled with affirmation of faith, reflection, and celebration.
The traditions surrounding the last night of Hanukkah truly bring to life the spirit of the holiday and serve as a reminder of the importance of religious freedom. While these traditions may vary from family to family, the connection to the miraculous oil burning for eight days and the importance of the rededication of the temple remain the same. As time passes, these beloved traditions of Hanukkah continue to persist as part of the vibrant Jewish culture in Germany and around the world.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.