What do kings, martyrs, miracles and merriment have anything to do with tonight? Tonight at sundown is the start of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. Chanukah, which lasts for eight consecutive nights, is a festive celebration that commemorates the rebuilding of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in the second century BCE. It is a holiday filled with kings, martyrs, miracles, merriment and more (potatoes, oil, and gifts too!).  Read on to discover some fun facts about the holiday, along with some delicious recipes and a fun dreidle game.

One of the many customs of the Chanukah celebration is to cook with oil. Why oil? It symbolizes the miracle of Chanukah where there was just a tiny bit of oil (used for light) that was discovered during the rebuilding of the temple. Miraculously the oil lasted for eight nights, providing enough light until more oil could be found to help complete the building of the temple. This is why the holiday lasts for eight nights.

If you go into a Jewish home during Chanukah you’re likely to take in the tantalizing smells of latkes (potato pancakes) being made with oil in the frying pan, or sufganiyot (donuts). Yum! Check out some of these recipes, you might need to double or even triple the ingredients to keep a crowd happy!

To symbolize the miracle of light, each night at sundown, Jewish families all over the world light the menorah, a candelabra with eight candle holders and a ‘shamash’ or helper candle in the middle, which is used to light the other candles. For the first night, one candle is lit by the shamesh, on the second night, two candles are lit, and so on until you come to the last night when all of the Chanukah candles are lit, casting a lovely warm glow that fills the room with light. Here are the blessings over the menorah.

In many families, menorah traditions abound. My children get to choose the colorful candles that will be lit each night, in some families each child gets to light their own menorah.

Another fun tradition of Chanukah is to play the dreidle game. A dreidle is a top with four sides, each with a Hebrew letter. Depending on which side the dreidle lands on, you can collect coins, chocolate or other treats as you wish (or that you have handy in the pantry!). Here are the simple rules for dreidle playing that the whole family can enjoy.

Check this out for Eight Fun Facts about Chanukah, and for some more background about this festive holiday, visit this site.

Have you ever played dreidle, eaten a latke (or two or more!), or helped light a menorah? Share your Chanukah memories with us here. Happy Chanukah!

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