Chanukah has always been a holiday that is traditionally celebrated in the home. The word Chanukah means “dedication” or “rededication.” It celebrates the victory of a small band of Jews, led by Judah Maccabee and his family, who were victorious in defeating the Syrian-Greeks in the 2nd century BC. They rededicated the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem. Legend says that the eternal light which is always lit in the Temple was knocked down and the oil that lit it (remember there was no electricity back then) spilled. The Jews scraped up the tiny bit of oil that was left to rekindle the light. And, they sent a messenger by foot to get more oil. It took the messenger 8 days to get back with the oil, but miraculously, the light stayed lit until he returned. This is the miracle of Chanukah and why we celebrate the holiday for 8 nights.
Each night of Chanukah families gather in their homes to light the Chanukah lights in a candle holder called a menorah. Each night, a new candle is added until all eight are shining bright. We say special blessings when lighting the candles and sing songs and then eat foods fried in oil like potato pancakes (latkes) and jelly donuts (sufganiyot). Many families exchange small gifts each night as well. We also play a game with a toy top called a dreydl.
This year (2019) we light the first Chanukah candle on Sunday, Dec. 22nd and the last Chanukah candle on the evening of Dec. 29th.
This post was submitted by Rabbi Judy Caplan Ginsburgh (also our Songs for Teaching December Artist of the Month!) See Judy’s music here! She published multiple award winning CDs, several of them dedicated to Jewish families. Her CD, Chanukah Favorites is a popular one for the upcoming Chanukah holiday.
See more holiday music from Songs for Teaching!
And don’t forget our Holiday Radio App that streams over 100 Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa songs! Available on the App Store and Google Play.