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12 Hidden Facts About Hanukkah...

Updated: Jan 22

Hanukkah sameach! May the glimmer and glow from all the lights bring blessings, warmth and brighten your days.

An abstract painting of a candelabra and lights
12 Hanukkah Facts You May Not Know...

1. What is Hanukkah? The word Hanukkah means "dedication." The holiday commemorates the triumph of a band of rebel Jews known as the Maccabees in reclaiming their temple from the Greek-Syrians.

2. Hanukkah lasts for eight nights, to commemorate how long the holy light burned. The temple required a holy light to burn inside at all times, but the Jews had only enough oil for one night. Incredibly, the light burned for eight days.

3. A Hanukiah is lit each night of the holiday. A Hanukiah is a candelabra with nine candles. Four on either side and a candle in the center intended to light all the others. This is known as the shamash and it sits higher than (or somehow apart from) the other candles.

4. Gifts were not always given for Hanukkah. It used to be tradition for people to give money to one another for Hanukkah. But as Christmas became more popular, more and more Jewish people began giving gifts instead.

5. Hanukkah dishes are fried for a reason. Latkes, sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), apple fritters, kugel- when you think of the food served at Hanukkah most of them are fried. This isn’t a coincidence, people fry their food in oil for Hanukkah as a symbol for the miracle oil that burned for eight nights straight.

6. Grand Army Plaza in New York Reportedly Has the Largest Hanukiah in the World. You can see the lighting of the 32 feet high and 4,000 pound Hanukiah each night of Hanukkah.

7. Hanukkah is not the most important Jewish holiday. Passover and Rosh Hashanah are actually much more significant to the religion.

8. Harry Truman was the first president to celebrate Hanukkah at the White House. In 1951, he accepted a Hanukiah as a gift from the Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion.

9. There is no "wrong" way to spell Hanukkah. You may have seen the holiday spelled like Hanukkah, Hannuka, or Chanukah... the list goes on. The most common version is Hanukkah, but all of the spellings are actually accurate. This is because there is no correct way to directly translate the Hebrew sounds to English.

10. The famous dreidel, or four-sided spinning top, was invented as a distraction. The Greek-Syrians had outlawed Jewish studies, so the Jews spun dreidels to pretend they were merely playing games while they engaged with their scripture.

11. Over 17.5 million jelly donuts are consumed in Israel throughout Hanukkah. To celebrate the miracle of the oil lasting eight days, many of the holiday's festive foods are prepared in oil, particularly: the family favorite sufganiyot (or jelly donuts).

12. The word "hanukkah" comes from the Hebrew word "Hinuch," or "to teach." Jews follow a tradition of incentivizing their children to learn Torah on this holiday by gifting them gelt, or golden-wrapped chocolates that resemble coins. Gelt can also be won in a game of Dreidel!

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