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Child holding a dreidel for Hanukkah

What is the Meaning of Hanukkah and What are Some Traditions?

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday full of history and tradition. The eight-day holiday, also known as the Festival of Lights, marks an important event in Jewish history and is celebrated by the people of the Jewish faith worldwide.

Here are some of the more common Hanukkah traditions:

Lighting Candles

One of the most recognizable symbols of Hanukkah is lighting candles. A candle on the menorah is lit each night during the eight day celebration. The purpose of lighting the candle is to commemorate our faith in God and to be grateful for His miracles. The candles are lit with a blessing and then followed up with traditional Hanukkah foods.

Playing Dreidel

Dreidel is a game that is often played during the Hanukkah celebration.  The dreidel has four sides with Hebrew letters נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei) and ש (Shin). Each letter stands for one of the following: N – nothing, G – take everything, H- half of what’s in front of you, S – put something into the pot. Every player starts with an equal number of game pieces or coins called “gelt.” Whoever has more than half at the end is declared the winner. 

Gift Giving

The tradition of gift giving has evolved – particularly among American Jews who live in a very generous gift-giving society. Traditionally, it was only gelt that was given at Hanukkah and it came either in the form of real coins or otherwise chocolate coins. Today, it is common to give a gift for each night of the Hanukkah celebration.  

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