Become a hanukkah expert in no time! Read about the why and how it is celebrated, learn about the menorah and even how to make irresistible potato latkes.
The origin of Hanukkah is based on events that happened hundreds of years ago. In those days, Antiochus, king of the Greeks, attempted to force all the Jewish people under his reign to follow the Greek religion. The Jews rebelled under the leadership of Judah Maccabee. They fought for three years until finally they drove the Greek soldiers away.
To celebrate their victory, the Jews wanted to rededicate the Jerusalem temple by lighting the Menorah. But they could only find oil to last for one day. Miraculously, this small amount of oil lasted for eight days; just long enough to make new oil. We celebrate this great miracle until today – see how it’s done…
Hanukkah, which is also know as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated in the Hebrew month of Kislev, that usually occurs in mid to late December. The celebrations go on for eight great days and revolve mainly around the tradition of lighting the menorah (or the Hanukiah as it’s called in Hebrew).
The menorah is a candleholder with eight candles and a shammash, or servant candle. Every evening at sunset, the Jewish family gathers together to light the hanukkah menorah and to exchange gifts. On the first night, a single candle is lit, and then another added each evening until eight candles are burning. The ninth candle, the shammash, must be set slightly apart from the other candles and is used to light them.
When lighting your Hanukiah, you are required to stand beside it holding the lit shamash. A blessing is recited and the candles are lit. According to tradition, when you light the menorah you should do it by the window, so the light can bee seen from the outside.
Menorahs can be found having only seven lights: three on each side and one in the middle. Make sure you don’t mistake these for Hanukah lamps. They are imitations of the Temple lamp and are used only for decoration. The Hanukah lamps will always have nine lights (as I described in the last passage). You can find them in a many different styles and made of endless materials.
On these eight days of celebration it is tradition to eat potato latkes. They are simple to make and great to eat. Click here for my old family recipe and enjoy these crispy hot cakes.