Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that is 8 days long and (this year) goes from December 7 to December 15, beginning at sundown on the first day, which means it officially started last night. Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting the menorah, eating latkes, and gifting presents.
Lighting the menorah is an important part of Hanukkah, and the first candles were lit last night. A menorah is a candle stick with nine candle holders - one in the middle and four on each side. The middle candle is the tallest and is called the shamash. It is used for lighting all the other candles. Each night you light the candles from left to right (the same way you would write in Hebrew) and each night you add one more candle to light.
Photo: the menorah Marley's parents were given for their wedding
Latkes are an important Hanukkah food that were probably on many people’s tables last night. They are potato pancakes similar to hash brown but they are circles and are traditionally eaten with applesauce or sour cream. Gifting and getting presents normally happen each night of Hanukkah. This tradition was created because many Jewish children were upset that they didn't get presents while their friends who celebrated Christmas did. Now almost every family gives gifts.
Many families have their own traditions for the holiday. One of my favorite family traditions is with my dad’s side of the family. My grandma throws a big Hanukkah party that everyone looks forward to. We have a big dinner and then we play a game called the grab bag. This is similar to a white elephant where every person brings a wrapped gift and when they arrive they put it in a big black trash bag. Once we are ready to play we all sit in a circle and pick a number from a hat. This is the order of who picks. Everyone goes around, closes their eyes and chooses a gift. Then once everyone has chosen one gift we start from the last person to pick and go back around the circle and you are able to pick anyone else's gift. This has been one of my favorite traditions since I was little and I think that it is a good way to gift give.
I also interviewed Maya Gordon, a sophomore, to see what some of her family traditions were. She responded with gift giving and going on vacation. She enjoyed these activities because she liked getting new things and not having school so she and her family can go to a new place. This year Maya and her family are going to Asia!
Hanukkah is a holiday celebrating the win of the Maccabees against the Greek army which were their former rulers. In 164 BCE, a priest named Mattathias created the Maccabees as his military. They were a small team with only about 800 soldiers to fight against a big empire with many more people. When the Maccabees miraculously won it was greatly celebrated. After they won they went to the Temple and only found enough oil to light the lamp for one day. To their surprise the oil lamp’s light lasted for 8 days. This is where the length of the holiday originated.
Hanukkah is a special holiday that has some special traditions that I know many people look forward to. Happy Hanukkah to all of those who are celebrating!