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Hanukkah Traditions

Hanukkah Traditions

Hanukkah traditions revolve around lighting a nine-branched menorah, known in Hebrew as the hanukiah.

On each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown; the ninth candle, called the shamash (“helper”), is used to light the others.

Jews recite blessings and display the menorah prominently in a window as a reminder to others of the miracle that inspired the holiday.

 

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You can find the Hanukkah blessings here.

In another reference to the Hanukkah miracle, traditional Hanukkah foods are fried in oil. Potato pancakes (known as latkes) and jam-filled donuts (sufganiyot) [for Israelis and Sephardic Jews] are particularly popular in many Jewish households during Chanukah.

Here’s a recipe for potato latkes by Tori Avey.

Potato Latkes (Courtesy of Dreamtime)

Other Hanukkah customs include playing with four-sided spinning tops called dreidels and exchanging gifts.

There are 4 Hebrew letters on the dreidel, spelling out “A miracle happened there.” (This is the Diaspora version. In Israel, it’s “A miracle happened here.)

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In the U.S., Hanukkah has exploded into a major commercial phenomenon, largely because it falls near or overlaps with Christmas.

The tradition I am encouraging is for women to wear Hanukkah jewelry, either a necklace, bracelet and/or earrings.

This is my best-selling Hanukkah charm bracelet.

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Check out this famous song by Adam Sandler.

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From a religious perspective, however, it remains a relatively minor holiday that places no restrictions on working, attending school or other activities.

Dreidel chain necklace

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The First and Second Books of Maccabees contain the most detailed accounts of the battles of Judah Maccabee and his brothers for the liberation of Judea from foreign domination. These books include the earliest references to the story of Hanukkah and the rededication of the Temple.  Yet, these two books are missing from the Hebrew Bible.