Some of the more common Hanukkah traditions:
Hanukkah traditions vary every year. Each family may vary depending on what they do in Hanukkah, and the traditions can run even more depending on the country where you live. Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrating the Jewish people’s victory over the Syrian Greeks who had ruled Israel for over 200 years.
Here are some of the more common Hanukkah traditions:
Lighting candles – Most people light candles on Hanukkah, but for some families, it’s replaced by a special menorah. Communities will hold a congregation of menorahs (smaller ones for everyone to share), and then everyone gets together to light each others’ candles. Because Hanukkah is the Jewish celebration of the Maccabean victory over the Syrian Greeks, oil is not used to burn the candles. Instead, they are lit with a unique candelabra that has eight arms and only one candle.
Playing dreidel – This game is played during or after dinner and involves spinning a little top made of wood or metal on its point in hopes of getting money into one’s matzah box.
Menorah lighting ceremony – During this part of the celebration, one of the candles is lit and then passed on to another person until all questions are answered. At this point, the candle should be placed in a holder, which is a particular container made from one of the branches of the original menorah. Finally, it is placed inside a unique holder on top of one’s table. The number of menorahs needed will vary depending on whether at home or in a synagogue.
Hanukkah dreidel game – One person spins two dreidels at once, and whoever captures both win that person’s money in their box. It goes on in rotation to see who has the most money.
Dreidel song – While one spins the dreidels, everyone sings a simple song that goes something like this:
“Nun, Nah, hey, farbrent Nundah,” (it means: “Now it will be very hot!”) and when someone wins, they sing “”Poo poo assa ya ha ha.”” (It means “spin again!”).
Gelt – Every year, children exchange gifts during Hanukkah. Since the festival lasts for eight days, children are given their gifts on the first, second, and last days. The first day is for younger children and siblings, while older children and parents will exchange gifts on the previous day. It’s traditional to give small amounts of Hanukkah money to kids (e.g., $5).
Gift-giving – Give gifts to your kids. It’s traditional to give each child a small amount of Hanukkah money ($5). Alternatively, you could create a lottery game: One person is the “giver,” and everybody else has the task of giving them money. Whoever is the giver wins all the money in their box.
Baker’s dozen – It’s traditional to give “the number 13” as a gift (or just 13). The gift should be something you picked up from your travels or something that reminds you of someone whose birthday has just passed.
To conclude, traditional Hanukkah customs can differ from family to family and region to region. Even if a tradition does not exist in your community, it doesn’t mean you can’t create your traditions. For instance, if you are from the USA you may want to think about how to make Hanukkah more special for your children than by purchasing gifts or lighting menorahs.