Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Maccabees, a group of Jewish freedom fighters, over the Syrian Greek army. Although they were outnumbered, the Maccabees were able to retake the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. They gathered together in the temple to read the Torah, but there was only enough lamp oil to last a day. The lantern burned for eight nights, and they saw this as a sign of God. Hanukkah is celebrated to keep the memory of this miracle alive and also to honor the heroic feat of the Maccabees.
Families gather together to celebrate the Festival of Lights because it brings warmth, hope, and coziness to our lives. Hanukkah is traditionally celebrated by lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, and eating foods like latkes, or potato pancakes. Chocolate gelt, a candy that gets its name from the Yiddish word for money, is another popular treat.
Hanukkah candles are lit as dusk is falls. Their flame serves as a beacon in the night. No matter how dark it seems, a single candle can light the way.
As each successive candle of the menorah is lit, the flickering flames assure us never be afraid to stand up for what's right. The Maccabees faced daunting odds, but won. All you need is a little faith.
Download my 40 Family Hanukkah Questions to start documenting your favorite family stories about the holiday. What are your most loved traditions? How has your family celebrated these eight days of togetherness over the years?
Many families exchange gifts each night throughout the holiday. I'm always curious to know each family's gift giving practices. Do they get the big gift on the first night? Is there a slow and steady build up to that last night? Is the gift giving like a bell curve, with the most important gift given on the fourth or fifth day? Is it completely random? I'd love to know your gift giving practices!
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