Menorahs light the way for Hanukkah

By Don Rajael, CCNN Writer

dreidel
Dreidels are played with during Hanukkah. Each side of the dreidel has a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), ש (Shin). They stand for “נס גדול היה שם” (Nes Gadol Hayah Sham) which means “a great miracle happened there”. Depending what side the spinning top lands on, kids can win goodies like gelt or raisins.

Hanukkah candles will be  lit from December 6 to December 14 this year, as the Jewish holiday is celebrated by millions around the world.

Also known as the Festival of Lights, this eight-day Jewish holiday traces its roots to the 2nd century Jewish revolt against the Greek King of Syria, who had outlawed Jewish rituals and demanded the worship of Greek gods.

The Jewish “Maccabees” successfully drove out the Syrian army from Jerusalem and reclaimed their temple. Hanukkah celebrates that victory, and was only a minor holiday until it gained popularity in the late 1800s.

The word “Hanukkah” means “dedication” in Hebrew, and it’s observed by lighting the candles on a nine-branched menorah, with one candle lit on each night of the holiday.

The ninth light is meant for practical lighting purposes, since the rest must be used only for Hanukkah-related activities.

Other traditions during Hanukkah include playing dreidel, which is a special four-sided spinning top, and offering religious prayers. Popular foods like doughnuts and latkes are served, as well as wrapped chocolate candies called “gelt” (Yiddish for “money”).

Featured image courtesy of Dominic Alves on Flickr. Image of dreidels courtesy of Adiel lo on Wikipedia.