Hanukkah Meaning Of Each Candle, Traditions, And How It’s Celebrated

Hanukkah
Some Hanukkah traditions include the menorah, deep fried donuts and gelt. Shutterstock

Chanukah or Hanukkah, is the eight-day festival of light, which begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, spirituality over materiality, and of purity over adulteration. Mostly, and according to Judaism, it celebrates the fact that God can make miracles for those who stand up for truth and justice. The Menorah (nine-branched chandelier) lighting symbolizes chasing away forces of darkness, which the faithful Jews did with swords, but in this case with light.

The Menorah: The one used today has nine branches total, for each lighting leading up to the ninth candle which is given a distinct location, usually above the rest. Every night, a candle or shamash (attendant) is lit with everyone gathered around the menorah, while reciting the blessings found in the prayerbook. Traditionally, observers should set one candle to the far right of the menorah, and add each night towards the left. Each night, they are supposed to light the newest candle first, and continue lighting from left to right.

Other traditions include, Oily foods: Since olive oil played a crucial part in the victory of a small band of faithful Jews, fried foods like potato latkes and deep-fried doughnuts are enjoyed during this holiday.

Hannukah Gelt: It is customary to give gelt (money) to children during this holiday so they learn the importance of giving to charity and helping others.

The Dreidel: According to Jewish tradition, a game similar to this spinning tops game was popular during the rule of Antiochus IV, who ruled the Seleucid Empire (centered on territory that is present-day Syria) during the second century BCE. Jews were not free to openly practice their religion, so when they gathered to study the Torah, they would bring a top with them. Whenever they saw soldiers, they would hide what they were studying and pretend to be playing with the top.

Shabbat Hanukkah: On Friday afternoon, the menorah is lit before the Shabbat candles, so they’ve burnt for at least one and a half hours before. On Saturday, people wait to light the menorah candles until after dark.

This year's Hanukkah begins on the evening of Tuesday, December 12, and ends on the evening of Wednesday, December 20.

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Maria G. Valdez

Maria was born and raised in Dominican Republic, where she began her career in journalism covering human interest stories, entertainment, beauty and wellness for a national magazine. She moved to New York City to study Musical Theatre, but went back to journalism after graduating in an attempt of becoming the Latina Carrie Bradshaw. She has an unhealthy obsession with JLo and claims to be Sofia Vergara’s long-lost daughter, and has tried a crazy amount of treatments to keep looking young. She became a Zumba instructor for fun.

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