What is Hanukkah and how do you celebrate it? Get to know the basics of this popular Jewish holiday, including ideas for unique Hanukkah gifts and decorations.
Hanukkah, the eight-day celebration known as the Festival of Lights, commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Typically occurring during November or December, Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting the menorah, playing games, giving gifts, and cooking traditional foods.
Each night, when the first star appears in the sky, families gather around the menorah to light the candles and recite the Hanukkah blessings. The candles are placed into the menorah right to left, and lit left to right, with the shamash the center candle. Electric menorahs are also popular, with each bulb being turned on in the same order the candles are lit.
Some homes light more than one menorah, and children often have their own, whether it’s one they’ve made or been gifted. Fun variations range from wooden menorahs to this personalized acrylic LED menorah, laser engraved with the phrase “Eights nights & eight lights.”
Games, gifts, and gelt are essential for celebrating Hanukkah. Spinning the dreidel, a four-sided top, is a traditional and popular game. Players spin the top and win (or lose, or draw) based on which side the dreidel lands on. Pieces of gelt — chocolate coins wrapped in foil — are the typical prizes in a game of dreidel. Also a popular gift, the word “gelt” means “money.” Parents gave their children gelt to be gifted to teachers, and over time it became a gift for children as well.
Many Jewish families — more than 40%, in fact — are interfaith, with one Jewish partner and one non-Jewish partner. Often celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas together, these families enjoy combined traditions. This Hanukkah Wishes Photo Ornament, featuring the family name and an image of a menorah, is the perfect gift to hang on the tree and celebrate both holidays.
Fried foods are another favorite Hanukkah tradition. Cooking foods in oil, such as latkes and sufganiyot, celebrates the miracle of the menorah oil burning for eight days, instead of one.
Crispy and savory, latkes are fried potato pancakes, usually eaten with apple sauce or sour cream. Another mouthwatering favorite are sufganiyot, which are jelly donuts. Fried, filled with fruit jam, and dusted with powdered sugar, these are often shared as gifts. Enhance your Hanukkah tablescape by serving your delicious fried treats on personalized Hanukkah plates that feature your family name, adding another unique touch to your holiday celebration.