A community’s celebration of resilience and reclamation.
Hanukkah, also known as “Chanukah” or “The Festival of Lights,” is an eight-day holiday that holds special significance among Jewish people. Usually falling in December, Hanukkah is traditionally marked by the lighting of menorahs, praying, gift-giving, eating fried foods, and playing games. Behind its many traditions, Hanukkah reveals a community’s rich history, one that remains meaningful to millions around the world to this day.
The Significance Of Hanukkah
Hanukkah’s roots can be found in an underdog story of resilience, which took place over 2000 years ago. When the Seleucids ruled Israel and attempted to force the Jewish people to assimilate to their culture and religion, a small and ill-equipped rebel army fought back against this mighty force. And against all odds, they won.
Although only a single night’s supply of oil remained when the Jewish people reclaimed their Holy Temple and rebuilt the altar, that small amount burned in the Temple’s menorah for eight long days. “Chanukah” represents “dedication” in Hebrew—it commemorates the miraculous rededication of this holy place, after all reason to hope seemed lost.
Hanukkah In Our Community
Although this time of year holds a shared meaning for many Jewish people, families of all kinds celebrate in their own unique ways. We asked our community to share some of their thoughts on what Hanukkah means to them, and what memories and traditions surrounding it they cherish most. Here are a few of their thoughts.
For Ashley, Hanukkah has always held a special meaning, with many traditions that she carries forward. “When I was a child at Hebrew School, the story of Hannukah was filled with hope and wonder. It truly brings the idea of “miracles” to life. As a child, of course I can remember the delicious food, family gatherings, late nights, and gifts. It was “our” Christmas.” Married now with three children of her own, Ashley still upholds many Hanukkah traditions. She describes eating sufganiyot and latkes with applesauce; singing songs and blessings the first night; lighting the candles with her family; giving her children presents; and playing with the dreidel. She feels, “the most important part of the holiday that we try to uphold is the miracle of Hannukah—and how lucky we are to be celebrating such a holiday so openly.”
Craig associates Hanukkah with small but symbolic experiences from his childhood, “My fondest memory that repeats over and over is centered around pulling out candles from a blue box— red, yellow, white, blue—and arranging them in a different order night after night. As a child, and now as an adult, those moments of arranging, lighting, and watching the slow burn of the candles create comforting emotions of belonging with, and pride of my Jewish identity.” Now that he has children of his own, and a mixed-race family that beautifully celebrates the traditions of two distinct cultures, Craig makes sure that lighting the menorah continues to be an important tradition. “We have a new heirloom that was gifted by my mother for our first Hanukkah celebrated with our first son. That same Hanukkah menorah will continue to be used each year—our own heirloom with layers of hardened wax beginning to form and representing a small contribution from each year of the annual family tradition.”
Holidays often are about who you spend them with, and Jordan treasures his time spent with family during the festival. “Every year we go to my aunt and uncle's for dinner, [and] we sometimes exchange gifts. My aunt makes delicious latkes [and] my go-to topping is sour cream … I really began to have an appreciation for these gatherings when my cousins went off to university—holidays like Hanukkah would be a rare opportunity where we’d all be together.” But as his generation grows up, he recognizes that family gatherings are important to maintain, now that the torch is being handed down. “It’s really nice to see that the younger generation in our family are beginning to host and cook meals for the holidays (a special shoutout to my youngest cousin!). I look forward to continuing these traditions together.”
Celebrating Hanukkah With Family Activities
We are proud to partner with @withlovefromima, who regularly posts amazing ideas on her blog and Instagram to bring Jewish learnings into everyday activities. In her home, she says, “We have themed nights each night of Hanukkah that focus on family activities. So it’s a week full of lots of special time with my family, and that is just really, really special.” For that reason, she has created a printable to help you plan your own eight days of celebration, and has generously shared her printables with the Root & Seed community.
Do you have a special memory from Hanukkah or a tradition that your family holds for the festival? Please share in the comments below.
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