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8 ways to celebrate Hanukkah

Hanukkah is the holiday that Jewish people all around the world spend commemorating the Jewish revolution against the Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Judaism had been outlawed by his regime after the looting of the Temple, and the Jewish army, called the Maccabees, then won it back. The menorah of the temple was lit, but there was only enough oil to keep it lit for one day. Miraculously, the menorah was able to stay lit for eight days. 

Here are eight ways to celebrate the eight days of Hanukkah this year:

Give to charity

It is customary to donate your money around the holiday season, and Hanukkah is no exception. The Talmud, the book of Jewish law, teaches that lighting the menorah on Hanukkah is a very important deed, one every person is obligated to do. It used to be encouraged that if a person could not afford candles, they would go door-to-door asking for them. It then became a tradition to donate money so that everyone would be able to buy candles for themselves, rather than having people ask around.

Here are a few charities to consider donating to:

The Friendship Circle

Friends of the IDF

Jewish Federation of Cleveland

Eat gelt

Gelt, a coin-like candy usually wrapped in a silver-colored or gold-colored foil, also comes from the tradition of giving to charity. On Hanukkah, it is customary to donate money rather than items. Thus, a more kid-friendly version was born in the way of melt-in-your-mouth chocolate. Gelt is a time-honored Hanukkah tradition that has become a favorite of many and is used to play dreidel. 

Play dreidel

During the time the Hanukkah story was taking place, the Jewish homeland was ruled by the Greeks. Ancient Jews were forced to live with many strict laws, which included limitations on how they could practice their religion, but it was still necessary to study Torah, so the Jews came up with a plan. They would bring dreidels with them while they studied, and if the Greeks caught them, they would hide the Torah and say they were just playing a game. Dreidel involves a little bit of gambling in the form of betting your gelt, making for a game that is both fun and very low-stakes.

Learn the story of Hanukkah

The story of Hanukkah has many important values to learn from, and, because there are so many parts to it, there is something for everyone. There’s war strategy, feminism, believing in yourself and the fight for religious freedom. It’s a feel-good story that is definitely better than a lot of those Hallmark Christmas movies I’ve been seeing lately, so you should give it a try if you’re feeling adventurous.

Make (and eat!) latkes

Because one of the things that Hanukkah celebrates is the miracle of the oil in the menorah lasting eight days, oily food is a Hanukkah staple. The most well-known traditional food for the holiday is latkes, which are potato pancakes. Latkes have been a cultural staple of the holiday for a long time and are extremely delicious. There is an ongoing debate of what the best topping for latkes is, with most being divided between sour cream or applesauce. Some adventurous souls even top it with ice cream, and ketchup is also a popular choice.

Make (and eat!) Sufganiyot

In keeping with the tradition of oily foods, Sufganiyot, or jelly-filled donuts, are another food that has become synonymous with Hanukkah. Sufganiyot are very sweet and often covered in powdered sugar, making them a perfect dessert to eat after you finish your third helping of savory latkes.

Debate the best way to spell Hanukkah

Like the latke topping debate, this one has been going on for quite some time. The spelling of “Hanukkah” is AP Style, which is why you will see it referred to as such here. But a lot of people prefer “Chanukah.” There’s really so many variations that you and your friends would be hard-pressed to agree on a spelling.

Light the Menorah/Chanukiah

The chanukiah, or the menorah as it is colloquially called, is the fancy candelabra-looking thing you see all your cool Jewish friends lighting. Like previously discussed, lighting the menorah is a central deed in celebrating the holiday and is the most important thing you can do to commemorate Hanukkah. If you don’t have a menorah, Chabad is supplying Jewish students with a box that contains a menorah, a dreidel and a box of candles. At the very least, you can always enjoy the menorah in Baker Center. Happy Hanukkah!


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