Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, commemorates the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In the 2nd century BCE, a small group of Jewish rebels, led by Judah Maccabee, successfully reclaimed the Temple from the oppressive Seleucid Empire. Upon rededicating the Temple, they found only enough pure olive oil to light the menorah for one day, but miraculously, it burned for eight days until more oil could be prepared.
How to Celebrate Chanukah
The celebration of Chanukah includes a variety of religious and customs. The primary tradition is to light a Menorah (which signifies the miracle of the light in the Temple lasting for eight days). The Menorah is a branched candlestick holding nine candles. On each night of Chanukah, a new candle is lit, people say blessings when they light the candles before displaying the Menorah prominently in a window. In addition to lighting the Menorah, other ways many celebrate include:
- Playing games with family including night please (spinning top).
- Eating foods that are fried with oil - such as latkes, pancakes, and doughnuts.
- Sharing gifts and presents. Some families enjoy giving little gifts to children each night
Our family Chanukah is all about the kids.
In Israel we are starting to celebrate couple of weeks before, when in kindergarten the kids are starting to learn about the story and most importantly the songs.
At home we are opening our 2 big boxes of decorations, dreidels, menorahs and themed arts and crafts. Each girl (I have 3 ) creating her own menorah. And when the holiday finally arrives we are gathering every night some of them it’s only us, some with more family and friends. But always each girl lights her own menorah. We are singing the songs playing with dreidels and of course eating both traditional food, and just good and festive holiday food.
After that we have the doughnuts some traditional ones (with red jam and icing sugar) and some chef patissier crazy ones.And then we gift for everyone
In my household Chanukah is all about the kids, so everything we do is centred around them. As it lasts for 8 nights we make sure to light the menorah every night, the kids taking it in turns to light the candles. The candles are often in beautiful colours and there is much debate over the order in which they are arranged.
And once the candles are lit it is onto the main part of the fun, the food! Due to Chanukah being to commemorate oil lasting longer than it should - we celebrate by eating foods fried in oil. This is mainly donuts and latkes (Jewish version of a hash brown). And we play a traditional game called Dreidel ... which can get very competitive as there is no skill involved only luck so everyone is in with a chance of winning no matter what age.
Chanukah is about family coming together, celebrating, eating and most importantly presents for the kids. My two kids receive different ‘small and big’ presents each night as it lasts for 8 nights so expectations are high! This can range from a book, to model cars to puzzles and sparkly dresses!
As a parent I try to ensure I’m home most of the eight nights to light the candles with my family and we include the children in this, allowing them to use the ‘shamash’ (the one that sits alone or in the middle ) to help light the other candles. This represents the miracle of Chanukah when the Macabees (after defeating the Greeks) used a little amount of oil that should have lasted just one night to light the holy light in the Temple, but it lasted for 8 whole nights giving time to find fresh oil supplies.
On Friday 8 December both my two kids and my two nieces lit the candles of the menorah, ate hot dogs & potato latkes followed by jam doughnuts …. then had a sleepover fuelled by their sugar high!
Some pics are below of me and my family celebrating together over the last few years -