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How to celebrate Hanukkah: Traditions and rituals

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Cómo celebrar Hanukkah, familia, judío, feriado, MundoNOW / How to celebrate Hanukkah, family, Jewish, holiday, MundoNOW
How to celebrate Hanukkah (Photo: Shutterstock)
  • How to celebrate Hanukkah.
  • Learn about this holiday’s traditions and rituals.
  • The meaning of the Festival of Lights.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a time-honored celebration rich with traditions that have been passed down through generations.

It commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of the menorah burning for eight days on a single day’s oil.

For eight nights, families gather to light the menorah, say prayers, and sing songs, making the holiday a cozy and reflective time.

Each evening, one more candle is lit until all are ablaze, symbolizing the growing light and the miracle that occurred so long ago.

The Menorah is a beacon of tradition

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Photo: Shutterstock

Central to Hanukkah is the lighting of the menorah, a special candelabrum with spaces for nine candles. There’s one for each night plus the shamash, used to light the others.

This ritual begins at sundown, with the newest candle added from right to left and lit from left to right.

As the candles burn, families spend time together, often playing games like dreidel, a four-sided spinning top with Hebrew letters.

The glow from the menorah’s candles brings warmth and brightness to homes, reminding us of the enduring message of Hanukkah.

Spinning the Hanukkah story

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Photo: Shutterstock

The game of dreidel is a Hanukkah tradition with a twist, each side of the top bearing a letter that stands for the Hebrew phrase «Nes Gadol Haya Sham,» meaning «A Great Miracle Happened There.»

Children and adults alike enjoy spinning the dreidel and playing for chocolate coins, nuts or raisins, adding a playful element to the holiday’s observance.

The game is not only fun but also serves as a symbol of Jewish resilience, as folklore tells of Jews who studied Torah in secret under Greek rule, using the dreidel to disguise their gatherings.

Dreidel games create laughter and joy, connecting everyone to the spirit of the festival.

Latkes and sufganiyot: Feasting on fried delights

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Photo: Shutterstock

Hanukkah wouldn’t be complete without its traditional foods, particularly those fried in oil, which pay homage to the miracle of the menorah.

Latkes, crispy potato pancakes, are a savory treat, often enjoyed with applesauce or sour cream on top.

In many families, making latkes is a group activity that turns the kitchen into a hub of conversation.

Sufganiyot, jelly-filled donuts sprinkled with sugar, are a reminder that a little bit of sweetness can go a long way in celebrating life’s small miracles.

How to celebrate Hanukkah: Gift-giving and Tzedakah

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Photo: Shutterstock

While Hanukkah is not traditionally a gift-giving holiday, many families exchange presents as a way to spread joy and show love during the festival.

More importantly, it’s a time for tzedakah, or acts of charity, reinforcing the importance of kindness and helping those in need.

This practice of giving, whether through gifts to loved ones or donations to charity, strengthens the community and reaffirms the values of compassion and generosity.

Hanukkah is a time to think of others, offering what we can to bring light into the lives of those around us.

The story of Hanukkah: Remembering the past

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Photo: Shutterstock

Telling the story of Hanukkah is a ritual that keeps the history and lessons of the past alive.

Families share tales of the Maccabees’ struggle for religious freedom and the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days.

Through storytelling, each generation learns the importance of perseverance and faith, ensuring these lessons remain vibrant and relevant.

Hanukkah’s story is a powerful reminder of the strength found in unity and belief, inspiring us to hold on to our traditions.

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