Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is a time of joyful celebration with family and friends. If you’re new to Judaism, you may be wondering how to best celebrate this holiday. If you’re planning a family party for the holiday, the tips below could inspire you to put a new twist on a time-honored tradition or try something entirely new for this year’s festivities.
Known in Hebrew as the hanukiah, the modern menorah has nine branches and nine candles. The center candle, the shamash, is used to light all other candles, and families gather each night of the eight-day holiday to light a new candle after sundown. Menorahs are often treasured family heirlooms. According to Jewish Gift Place, you may have a menorah that your family always uses, but there are so many options to choose from if you want something new whether you want it small or large, traditional or modern, simple or intricate. You might want to have one large menorah for the window or table and smaller menorahs for other areas of the house. You could even place a menorah in your child’s room, too, and consider letting him or her make a homemade menorah as well.
Fried foods are a Hanukkah staple. Some of the classic holiday dishes that you could serve to your family include latkes (potato pancakes), loukoumades (deep-fried puffs dipped in honey or sugar) sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) and rugelach (sheets of flaky dough filled with chocolate and cinnamon). Cheese and other dairy foods are favorites during this time of year, and some families like to serve gefilte fish, challah and matzo ball soup. Traditionally, latkes are eaten with applesauce or sour cream, and apple cake is a popular option for dessert. If you’re not great at cooking things from scratch, there are specialty stores you can buy traditional foods from, like World Market.
According to Temple Mount Sinai, dreidel games are a great way to celebrate Hanukkah. The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top, and it can be used in a variety of Hanukkah games for children and adults. The traditional version of the dreidel game has no limit on the number of participants, and each player starts with an equal number of game pieces, usually ten to fifteen. Popular game pieces include pennies, nuts, matchsticks, raisins, and chocolate chips.
At the start of every round, each player puts one of his or her game pieces into a central pot. If the pot ever becomes empty or has only one piece left, all players must put one game piece in the pot. During a player’s turn, he or she spins the dreidel once. If the dreidel lands on nun, the player doesn’t do anything. If it lands on gimel, the player gets to keep everything in the central pot. When the dreidel lands on he, the player gets half of what is in the pot. If there is an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes half of the pieces plus one more. When the dreidel lands on shin, the player puts one of his or her pieces into the pot. Players who use up all their pieces are considered out, and each round of the game ends when one player has won everything in the pot.
When gathering your friends and family for this year’s Hanukkah celebration, don’t be afraid to try something new. Above all, enjoy spending time with your loved ones. Have a splendid Festival of Lights!
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