Hanukkah’s rites and rituals are rooted in stories and history. Here are four facts that help explain the tradition of this ancient celebration.
- Known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration, usually in December, marked by the lighting of a candle each night. The eight days symbolize the miracle in which a lamp in the ancient temple of Jerusalem burned with just a one-day supply of oil.
- The Hanukkah candles are held in a nine-candle holder called a Menorah; the ninth candle, the Sammash, is the first to be lit, and it will light all subsequent candles.
- In honor of the oil, the symbolic “light” of the holiday, fried foods are traditional Hanukkah fare – latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyots (doughnuts) are often on menus. Cheese is also a popular Hanukkah ingredient used in kugels (baked noodle dishes), blintzes (cheese-filled crêpes) and, of course, cheesecake.
- Gifts are exchanged, and a typical present for children is “gelt” (money); it often takes edible form in the shape of chocolate coins wrapped in colorful foil.