8 Important Facts About Hanukkah

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8 Important Facts About Hanukkah

When the holiday season comes around, some families don’t celebrate Christmas. They celebrate Hanukkah instead. It’s the Jewish version of the holidays and there are some important facts about it that many may not realize. Here’s everything you might have wanted to know about Hanukkah, but were afraid to ask.

1. Plenty of Candles.

Did you know that every box of Hanukkah candles has at least 44 of them inside? It’s because that provides enough candles for everyone in the home to light one. A hanukkiayah holds nine candles [a menorah only holds 7] and one is lit every night during the celebration. There are blessings recited with the lighting of each candle every night.

So if lighting only a menorah, you’ve got extra candles… the reason for the extra candles is that they tend to break quite a bit. If you’re getting ready to remember the story of Hanukkah and a candle breaks, that’s not so good. Why 9 places if there are only 8 nights? The ninth candle is used exclusively for lighting the others. They’re lit from left to right, but placed from right to left.

2. A Tasty Sufganiyot.

Thinking about a diet during Hanukkah is just about pointless. The average person during the holidays will consume at least 2 suufganiyot, or doughnuts, over the season. Each one adds at least 600 calories to the person’s daily intake. Overall those who practice this holiday tradition when combined eat an extra 11 billion calories over the 8 day period. Then add in the chocolate coins, potato latkes, and the crullers and a visit to the tailor is in store.

3. The Name of the Holiday.

Why is the holiday actually called Hanukkah? It comes from Hebrew tradition. The word for a candelabra is hanukiya, in English spelling since Hebrew has no vowels, and is a representation of the menorah. If you want to find out more about the history of the holiday, however, you’ll need to pick up a Torah and the four books of Maccabees in the apocrypha. Some say that the word means “dedication,” but that’s a modern interpretation based on the current events in the Middle East.

4. A Unique Learning Device.

For Jews living under the rule of Greece, they were forbidden from reading or even learning from the Torah. According to tradition, this was the foundation of how the dreidel came about. It was a way that families could gather and learn about the scriptures. If a soldier came along to enforce the law, then the Jews could just show that they were gambling. Some use it for gambling still today, but what the letters stand for is very important. It means that a great miracle happened there for those who are here, referring to Israel.

5. It Isn’t That Important.

We all tend to think of the holiday season as the end of the year as one of the most important holidays. Hanukkah, however, really isn’t considered that important. The Passover and others like Yom Kippur are considered more important. It is believed that Hanukkah didn’t gain in importance until the 19th century because it could be used as an alternative for Christmas where the birth of Jesus, whom other religions say is the Messiah, is celebrated.

6. Centuries to Celebrate.

From a political standpoint, celebrating Hanukkah has become a rather recent tradition. There wasn’t an official annual White House party for the holiday until 2001. It’s been said that there wasn’t even a hanukkiayah or menorah in the White House until 1951 when the prime minister of Israel presented one to Harry Truman. Jimmy Carter was the first President to speak at a Hanukkah event and that was in 1979.

7. Lots of Different Spellings.

Hebrew doesn’t translate over to English very well. That means there are a lot of different spellings for the holiday based on how each part of the word is translated over. In total, there are 16 different spellings of the world Hanukkah and they are all phonetically correct.

8. A Special Tradition.

In some parts of the world, the last day of Hanukkah has a special community significance. The leftover candles, wicks, and oil will all be combined together so that a large bonfire can be created. Sometimes songs will be sung. Sometimes dancing around the great fire will commence. It’s a celebration often marks the winter solstice as well because the holiday occurs just four days before the new moon every year at that time.

These important facts about Hanukkah provide a new look at a holiday that many see, but don’t celebrate themselves. With traditions and blessings all its own, it might be considered a minor holiday by some, but it is a time that certainly celebrates major points of Jewish history.