Hanukkah Traditions and History

Keely Groholski, Writer

     Christmas season has just begun, but another notorious holiday is just around the corner for all Jewish people like to celebrate, Hanukkah. 

     Now Hanukkah was first created in 165 BCE, as the Seleucid king had just been defeated. The people of Judea were forced to celebrate Greek culture under his reign. 

     Some Jews were fleeing from some of the greeks when they encountered a temple in which one jar of oil was found. One jar of oil could only last one night, but the stories told, say that once they prayed to God the candles miraculously lasted eight nights until they escaped.


Now Hanukkah is not as exciting or riveting as it is today, but it does share its light-hearted moments.

     During this exciting holiday, there is a fun game that is practiced called ‘Hide the Afikoman.’ 

     In which the adults hide pieces of bread around the house, to symbolize Jews hiding their extra bread. Once the children are released, the first three to find the Afikoman are given a piece of cake.

     Speaking of food, Hanukkah has its own special palette. 

     The main course always consists of Brisket. Brisket comes from a cow as Jews cannot eat any pork on this holiday as pork is not seen as an animal of God. Now Brisket is a huge chunk of meat that can serve up to 20 people, this was mostly served to them when Jews were held in Eygpt as brisket could feed a lot of people, so they would not have to cook as much. 

     Moving onto side dishes, the most famous, being Latkes (L-ah-t-kahs). Which is basically a shredded potato pancake. It pairs well with any toppings such as cheese, salmon and even Nutella! The Latkes are significant to the holiday meal as the oil it’s cooked in represents the oil that burned for eight days.

     Another well-known side dish, not as famous as Latkes, but just as important is Kugel. Kugel is an egg noodle casserole made with many spices such as cinnamon, apples, and honey. This is one of the most traditional Ashkenazi dishes to stick with, besides Brisket of course.

     And last but certainly not least, gelt. Gelt is melted chocolate inside of a gold foil to make it look like a coin. This little treat is used in gambling with a dreidel. 

     A dreidel is a top with four symbols on it depending on how much gelt you take from the pile of gelt in the middle of the two or more players.

     ‘Nun’ is self-explanatory in which you lose no gelt. 

     ‘Hay’ is where you take half of the gelt in the middle. 

     ‘Gimmel’ is where you take all of it.

     And finally ‘Shen’ is where you put one of your own gelt in the middle. 

     Once you are all tired out from the games and stuffed from the good Jewish food, you can end the night by saying the Hanukkah prayer and lighting the corresponding candle with the night.