Yesterday we lit the first Hanukkah candle, and so in honor of that, I thought we could talk a little bit about this holiday. For those who may be only passingly familiar with this Jewish holiday, you may think of it as a “Jewish Christmas,” in which we give presents to each other and have lots of parties. This is all true. We do give presents, and we do have parties. However, the main story of Hanukkah focused on the Greeks trying to convince the Jews to assimilate into Greek culture, the Jews refusing to do so, and a big war ensuing, so in that respect, all attempts to compare Hanukkah to Jewish Christmas can be highly ironic.
Nonetheless, here are some of the exciting things we do:
(1) Eat lots of fried food. First of all, YUM. Second of all, the purchase of a FryDaddy deep fryer is going to bring this aspect of the holiday celebration to a whole new level. Third of all, the reason we do this is because of the story that says one of the miracles of Hanukkah is that God made oil for lighting the candelabra in the Temple last for 8 days even though it was only supposed to last for one. Therefore, we celebrate with oil.
(2) Give presents. This custom is a trickier one to understand, and it may have some origins in the Christmas tradition of giving presents (check out this website for some more information about that:
http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/449706/jewish/Is-Giving-Chanukah-Presents-a-Non-Jewish-Custom.htm). There is a tradition to give chocolate “coins” to kids, though, so we do that too (for both kids and adults).
(3). Play dreidel. This game has a spinning top, with four Hebrew letters on it, and depending on which letter is facing up when the top falls down, the player can either win the main pot, half the pot, or have to forfeit some of his/her own loot to the center pot.
Check out this website for more rules and details: http://www.kidzworld.com/article/27693-how-to-play-dreidel.
So we do all of these things, and some more (Hanukkah Gingerbread House, definitely assimilated tradition from Christmas celebrations but still so fun; family parties, etc). Whatever holidays you celebrate this season, enjoy them!