Giving gifts is an important tradition of Hanukkah, but why do we do it? This article seeks to provide a detailed explanation of why gifting has become so deeply integrated with the Jewish holiday, which is celebrated annually for eight days.
What Is Hanukkah & Why Is Giving Gifts A Part Of It
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that is celebrated for 8 days and dates back to many centuries, specifically in the year 165 BCE. It is celebrated in the Hebrew month of Kislev and is also known as the Festival of Lights or the Festival of Dedication. The holiday is celebrated to commemorate the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, which enslaved them for centuries.
The Maccabees dedicated the Jerusalem Temple and lit a menorah, a candelabrum with seven branches, with the remaining oil from the temple’s menorah. They found a single cruse of pure olive oil and lit the menorah in the Temple. For 8 days, the oil continued to burn despite only having enough oil for one day. From then on, the holiday of Hanukkah was established and celebrated.
The Significance of Giving Gifts During Hanukkah
With the significance of the story of the Maccabees in mind, gifting has become an integral part of the Jewish holiday. Jews often give gifts to one another to honor their heritage and remember the miracle of the oil. There are two ways in which gifts are given during Hanukkah:
- Dreidel Gambling/Gift Exchange: This style of gift-giving is popular amongst Jewish families. Players take turns spinning a four-sided top, with each side featuring a different Hebrew letter. Depending upon which letter appears on the top, each person puts coins, candy, or small gifts in the pot. The player with the most coins, candy, or gifts in the pot at the end of the game is the winner. This is a popular way for families to spend quality time together and exchange small gifts.
- Giving Monetary Gifts: This is another commonly practiced gift-giving method. According to the Jewish custom, it is customary to give coins or money as gifts during Hanukkah. Giving money or coins, specifically silver coins, brings forth the story of the Maccabees and their oil.
Therefore, giving gifts during Hanukkah has become an integral part of the celebration. Gifts are given in remembrance and reverence of the holiday’s history and they are a symbol of the miracle that the Jewish people experienced with the Maccabees and the Seleucid Empire. Gifts are given to family and friends as a sign of appreciation and responsibility to the Jewish tradition.
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Last update 2023-11-22. Price and product availability may change.