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Hanukkah Traditions?


MommyToAshley wrote: I know there are some families here that celebrate Hanukkah. I hope I don't offend you by asking, but I am interested in learning more about the Holiday and how you celebrate. Also, does your family have any special traditions?

C&K*s Mommie replied: That is a good question, I am interested in hearing about the Hanukkah tradition, as well. smile.gif

PrairieMom replied: I've got another question, how is the date Its celebrated decided? wasn't it before Christmas last year? I'm confused and need some education on the subject!

MamaJAM replied: Hanukkah is the celebration of the Jews regaining control of the temple and cleaning it up...etc. When they went to light the temple menorah they found only enough oil to last 1 day -- making new oil takes 8 days.....a miracle happened and the 1-days-amount of oil lasted for 8 full days. So - on Hanukkah we celebrate for 8 days and light a 9-branced menorah (8 for the days the oil lasted and 1 called the 'shamesh' (meaning 'helper') which is lit first and used to light the other candles each night).
Since it's a celebration of 'oil' (so to speak) - we also eat lots of fried foods - the biggies are latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly doughnuts). Not a holiday for those dieting. wink.gif

In our family - we have a serious menorah addiction -- we don't even light all of our menorahs (though we do set them all out as decorations). Each night we light a family candle-burning menorah, a oil burning menorah, and we each light our own personal candle-burning menorahs (I admit - it takes quite a while just to get everything lit).
I try to make latkes every night...but it's messy and takes a while - so I usually only make them 5 times. I also try to make fresh sufganiot at least once.
Our community has 2 separate public candle-lightings on different nights - we try to attend both. Large menorahs are lit - we sing songs - we have doughnuts and juice. It's fun (though usually freezing).

About the date -
Hanukkah is always celebrated on the same day -- on the Hebrew calendar. 25 Kislev is the first day of Hanukkah (and Jewish days start at sunset -- so on the English calendar the first 'day' of Hanukkah this year is Dec 26....but the holiday actually starts at sunset on Dec 25. Since - obviously - the Hebrew and English calendars don't match-up...the Jewish holidays seem to fly all over the place (going by the English calendar) -- but, by the Jewish calendar - they are always the same.
The Hebrew calendar basically follows the cycles of the moon (as it has for 5766 years). There are 12 months in a year - except during a leap year when there are 13 months (that happens 7 out of every 19 years).

3_call_me_mama replied: WOW Judy that is a lot of information. Thanks for sharing. I never really understood how it worked and now i do:) THANKS! Also .... do you travel to other relatives houses during the 8 nights? and are there still peopel that really follow the Hebrew Calendar? (if I'm being too nosey feel free to tell me:) I remember you form another board and wanted to ask you there but never had a chance wink.gif )

MamaJAM replied:
We don't travel to family for the holidays -- but that's because neither of our families are Jewish. Usually - one day during Hanukkah my brother's family stops by our house for a short visit to give our kids gifts....in return we make a short visit at my parents house on Decf 25 to give my brother's kids gifts for Christmas (this year we're just meeting up on Dec 25 and taking care of both holidays at once).

Yes - there are many people/communities that still follow the Hebrew calendar -- though living in America - you also need to follow the English calendar. Example - my kids attend a private Jewish school -- but they have off the end of Dec every year for winter break (from Christmas through New Years) because 1) the school busses don't run during that time and 2) not all of the teachers at the school are Jewish and it's an important holiday for the Christian teachers to be with their families and that is understood. They also have off for the Jewish holidays that are Shabbats (days of rest). The Jewish New Year usually falls in Sept/Oct.....so our year actually begins around the start of school.


OH YES -- How dare I forget this part of our celebration...
DREIDEL!!!
Dreidel is a game played with a spinning top (called a dreidel).....it has 4 sides each with a Hewbrew letter on them which stand for "Nes Gadol Hayah Sham" - meaning "A great miracle happened there" (dreidels made in Jerusalem end with a different letter making the phrase mean "A great miracle happened _here_" since that's where miracle of the temple menorah took place). Back before the Jews regained control of the temple - the king had forbidden any practice of the Jewish faith -- no studying Torah or learning Hebrew, etc. The Jews kept right on learning and studying -- sometimes in private (in the caves around the city) -- other times the children studied by using tops with Hebrew letters on them -- that way if a soldier saw them - it just looked like they were playing with a top.
Today - dreidel is played with gelt (chocolate 'coins') -- you have a pot in the middle and depending on which letter your dreidel lands on you take a different action (you get all the chocolate - or put one in - etc). Yes.....we're teaching our kids to gamble sleep.gif but it's for chocolate - so it's all good. biggrin.gif

mysweetpeasWil&Wes replied: Well I'm glad Judy can clear it up for you because I unfortunately don't have the know-how when it comes to the Jewish faith. I mean, I was raised Jewish and I celebrated several of the holidays and I know the basics, but we never went to temple nor did I have a bahtmitzvah nor did I attend Hebrew school. The tradition for me on Hannukah is lighting a new candle each of the eight nights until you have all eight full on the menorah. We would wait until sundown and my sister and I would rush to the menorah to light the candles! My parents used to give us gelt (sp?) which are chocolate coins and a small gift each night. Typically around the last night, or whenever it falls on a Saturday, we would go to my grandparent's house where my aunts, uncles and cousins would all be. Just like Christmas, we would exchange gifts and have a nice dinner. My grandma always makes latkes (potato pancakes) and when my grandfather was alive, he would say the prayers.

I remember there was only one other Jewish girl in my kindergarten class, so my mom and her mom got together and came to our classroom to teach us how to play Dreidel. We also made latkes if I remember right...it was a long time ago!

Thanks for asking Dee Dee!

jcc64 replied: My kids each have a handful of Jewish buddies, and we've had the good fortune to be invited over for some Hanukkah candle lightings. They love the dreidel, the gelt, and of course, THE LATKES!!!! Who on this earth could NOT love a latke?!!!
My son's friends are all reaching the age of bar mitzvah, and we've been to a few of those as well. I have to say, although I know these celebrations can get pretty elaborate and over-the-top in some neighborhoods, here they are heartfelt and modest, and incredibly moving. From my limited encounters with the faith, I really felt a very strong connection to the traditions of the past- rituals are performed with a very tangible understanding of their origins. The kids just seemed to have a strong understanding of why they were doing what they were doing- and I was impressed by that. I also felt very welcomed as an "outsider."

MommyToAshley replied: Thanks so much for sharing... it was both informative and interesting!

Now I am curious about latkes. Is the only time you have latkes is during Hanukkah? I am curious what it tastes like. biggrin.gif

MamaJAM replied:
There are about as many recipes for latkes as there are Jewish people! Sometimes they are made with a smooth batter similar to regular pancake batter - and fried in oil. Other times they are more grated-potatos like hashbrowns (but again fried up in oil). Often there is some onion mixed in...pepper and/or salt as well - and a little flour.
For me -- yes - the only time I make latkes is at Hanukkah time. First of all - it's a mess to make them (and if you're making them 5-8 times in an 8-day period...you get pretty sick of it). Also -- they're fried (the whole reason for Hanukkah is the celebration of the miracle of the oil) -- I don't make much fried food for my family (and can't stomach tons of it myself). Lastly - I'm not all that fond of them.....you should see the amount of applesauce I eat with them - piled twice as high as the latke itself! My DH would love for me to make them more often.....but he knows he'll get plenty when Hanukkah rolls around.

Here's my recipe (which can easily be divided in half for smaller families or groups) -
6 large potatos
1 med onion
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt (though I use less or none)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup flour

grate the potatos - mix everything together -- then fry them up in about 1 inch of oil - flipping when the edges turn a tan-color
Sometimes I put the mix into the food processor and grind it until it's fairly smooth before cooking....depends on my mood.
Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce.

holley79 replied: Judy that is awesome that you shared that with everyone. Every year when my dad go stationed somewhere new I had the fortune of my best friend's dad getting the same assignments. They are jewish and gave me a Dreidel when I was little. I still have it. Her and I are getting together after Annika is born. I'm looking forward to it.

MamaJAM replied: I think it's great you still have the dreidel! If it was me - I would have lost it years ago. wink.gif I'm glad that in all of your moving around - you were able to stay close to your best friend.

gr33n3y3z replied: latkes are very good I had those the first time 3 years ago when we catered the Celebration at the Cinnagog.


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