Hanukkah Family Traditions

Do you celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights?  This year, Hanukkah begins on December 20th and runs through the 28th.  There are a lot of traditions wrapped up with Hanukkah, traditions that you and your family may enjoy celebrating and participating in.

Hanukkah revolves around the story of the Macabees, a group of Jews who faced religious persecution.  They battled against the Syrian army, which was invading their homeland, and while they were outnumbered, they eventually succeeded.  Following the war, they returned to their Holy Temple, which was in disrepair.  They set out to rebuild it and rededicate it, which would involve lighting the N’er Tamid, the eternal light.

However, their supply of oil to light the lamp was very limited, and more oil could not be acquired right away.  Even though there was only enough oil to light the lamp for one day, it miraculously lasted eight days.  This led to the tradition of lighting one candle on the menorah on the first day of Hanukkah, then lighting another each night until the festival is over.

In addition to placing the menorah in a window during Hanukkah, homes are also often decorated in white and blue.

Children of Jewish families often hear from others that they’re missing out on amazing Christmas gifts.  Well, the truth is that children usually get a gift or a little money every night, so instead of one big day of gifts, those who celebrate Hanukkah get gifts for over a week.

Many children also play the game of dreidyl.  This game involves spinning a small, four-sided wooden top that features Hebrew letters on each side.  The traditional Dreidel Song is usually sung while spinning.

There are many traditional foods associated with Hanukkah.  They include latkes, which are small fried potato pancakes, and sufganiyot, a type of jelly donut.  If you’ve never had these treats before, look up the recipes online and try them.  You don’t have to celebrate Hanukkah to enjoy them.

Gearing Up For The Holidays

It’s almost December!  You know what that means—time for the holidays!  Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s…it’s a busy time for everyone.  There are gifts to buy, family dinners to prepare, and out-of-town relatives and friends to visit with.  So have you started gearing up for the holidays?  Here are a few things to have on your to-do list.

Make your shopping lists.  Who do you need to buy gifts for?  What’s your budget?  What are you going to buy?

Make sure you have current addresses for everyone you’re going to send a holiday card to.

Start talking with your friends and family to set dates for your holiday get-togethers.  People usually have a number of gatherings to attend during the holiday season, so it’s best to set dates as soon as possible because the calendar will be filling up quickly.

If you’re hosting a family dinner, get your guest list in order and begin thinking about a menu.  If your guests are going to bring a dish, it’s best to get it all sorted out sooner rather than later so everyone knows what to bring.

If, on the other hand, you’re travelling out of town to visit family over the holidays, get your travel plans in order.  Airlines and hotels fill up very quickly this time of year, so the sooner you make your reservations, the better.  It’s also very helpful to get in your time off requests because many of your co-workers may also be want time off.

One last part of gearing up for the holidays—decorating!  According to some of the stores, it’s never too early to decorate for the holidays.  Some places had decorations up a few months ago!  So pull out your Christmas tree, get out your menorahs, and deck the halls!

Hanukkah Activities for the Entire Family

Hanukkah begins soon, and if your kids are anything like most, they’re very excited for the eight days of the holiday. Hanukkah presents several different opportunities for families to spend some quality time together. Here are a few activities that the entire family can participate in.

The main focus of Hanukkah is on the menorah and the traditions it represents. During Hanukkah, one candle is lit each night during the eight days. Children can get involved by learning the prayers recited over the menorah each day. With help, children can also light a candle. If your kids enjoy arts and crafts, they can create their own menorah out of sculpting clay and make homemade candles out of beeswax or by using candle-making kits. Of course, children should always be supervised when lighting candles.

If you like cooking traditional Hanukkah foods like latkes and donuts, get the entire family involved. While cooking with oil is not an activity for children, they can help prepare the batter, cut out cookies, and decorate desserts.

Kids might also want to make their own Hanukkah cards to give out to their friends and relatives. This is a great way for kids to use their imaginations and art skills, and family members will treasure these created cards so much more than store-bought ones.

Finally, take the time to tell traditional Hanukkah stories, listen to music, and generally get into the spirit of the Festival of Lights. You might even want to go out and enjoy the holiday light displays, many of which are secular and not religious. There are many holidays happening around this time of year, and there’s nothing that says you can’t enjoy a little of what they all have to offer with your family while you celebrate Hanukkah.