12 Fun Hanukkah Facts
Chag sameach or, Happy Hanukkah! As the holiday is fast approaching, we thought we should break down the history behind some of this Jewish holiday's traditions. From its history and its food to how to celebrate it today, here are twelve things to know about the history of Hanukkah.
1. What is Hanukkah? The word Hanukkah means "dedication."
The holiday commemorates the triumph of a band of rebel Jews known as the Maccabees in reclaiming their temple from the Greek-Syrians.
2. Hanukkah lasts for eight nights, to commemorate how long the holy light burned.
The temple required a holy light to burn inside at all times, but the Jews had only enough oil for one night. Incredibly, the light burned for eight days.
3. A Menorah is lit each night of the holiday.
A Menorah is a candelabra with nine candles. Four on either side and a candle in the center intended to light all the others. This is known as the shamash and it sits higher than (or somehow apart from) the other candles.
4. Gifts were not always given for Hanukkah.
It used to be a tradition for people to give money to one another for Hanukkah. But as Christmas became more popular, more and more Jewish people began giving gifts instead.
5. Hanukkah dishes are fried for a reason.
Latkes, sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), apple fritters, kugel- when you think of the food served at Hanukkah most of them are fried. This isn’t a coincidence; people fry their food in oil for Hanukkah as a symbol for the miracle oil that burned for eight nights straight.
6. Grand Army Plaza in New York Reportedly Has the Largest Menorah in the World.
This year you can see the lighting of the 32 feet high and 4,000-pound Menorah every night from December 2nd to December 9th.
7. Hanukkah is not the most important Jewish holiday
Jewish holidays like Passover and Rosh Hashanah are much more significant to the religion.
8. Harry Truman was the first president to celebrate Hanukkah at the White House
In 1951, he accepted a Menorah as a gift from the Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion.
9. There is no "wrong" way to spell Hanukkah.
You may have seen the holiday spelled like Hanukkah, Hannuka, or Chanukah... the list goes on. The most common version is Hanukkah, but all the spellings are actually accurate. Because there is no correct way to directly translate the Hebrew sounds to English, it could be spelled a variety of different ways, each equally correct.
10. The famous dreidel, or four-sided spinning top, was invented as a distraction.
The Greek-Syrians had outlawed Jewish studies, so the Jews spun dreidels to pretend they were merely playing games while they engaged with their scripture.
11. Over 17.5 million jelly donuts are consumed in Israel throughout Hanukkah.
To celebrate the miracle of the oil lasting eight days, many of the holiday's festive foods are prepared in oil, particularly: the family favourite sufganiyot (or jelly donuts).
12. The word "Hanukkah" comes from the Hebrew word "Hinuch," or "to teach."
Jews follow a tradition of incentivizing their children to learn Torah on this holiday by gifting them gelt, or golden-wrapped chocolates that resemble coins. Gelt can also be won in a game of Dreidel!