At the Brookhouse Home, we have a Menorah in one of our windows that we light during the eight days of Hanukkah which runs from November 28 until December 6 this year.
Brookhouse Home administrator Judy Kane wrote up the following about these cherished Jewish traditions and we have republished them here. Judy writes,
“Hanukkah is a winter holiday that celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks and the rededication of the Temple, as well as the miracle that a little cruse of oil, designed to burn for only one day, kept the Temple menorah alight for eight whole days until more sanctified oil could be produced. The holiday is celebrated with feasting, special Hanukkah songs, and lighting the Hanukkah menorah (called a hanukkiah).”
These are the primary symbols of the holiday:
Menorah: The Hanukkah menorah, or hanukkiah, is designed to evoke the menorah that stood in the Temple 2,000 years ago. The Temple menorah had seven branches, a central branch flanked by three on each side. The branches symbolize the eight days that the oil miraculously burned as well as the eight days of celebration. The central flame is called the shamash candle.
Dreidel: The dreidel is a four-sided top with a different Hebrew letter on each side. The usual story told about the dreidel is that when Jewish learning was forbidden, the Jews would study Torah in secret. When soldiers were approaching, they would quickly hide their books (or, back then, scrolls) and take out the tops, and pretend to be involved in a game.
How to play dreidel
The letters on the dreidel are also symbolic. Around the world, most dreidels have the following four letters: nun, gimmel, hey, shin. This stands for the Hebrew phrase nes gadol haya sham, which means “a great miracle happened there” — alluding, of course, to the miracle of Hanukkah. In Israel, where the Hanukkah miracle took
Gelt (chocolate coins): Many Jewish families celebrate the holiday by handing out gelt, chocolate coins covered in gold and silver. Although today they are primarily given as treats for kids, the practice began as a way to thank someone for their labor.
The rabbis approved of the custom of giving money at Hanukkah because it publicized the story of the miracle of the oil. According to popular legend, it is linked to the miraculous victory of the Maccabees over the ancient Greeks. To celebrate their freedom, the Hasmoneans minted a national coin.
Latkes and Jelly Donuts: Because of the miracle of the oil, it is traditional for Jews to eat fried foods on Hanukkah. The two most popular are latkes — a fried potato pancake — and jelly donuts.
Tips on Sharing Hanukkah with Seniors
Hanukkah is the perfect time to gather your family close, and share stories with your children and grandchildren. The first one that comes to mind is the story of the event Hanukkah commemorates, and families can use this as an opportunity to re-tell the ancient stories of Judaism which include the famous Golem of Prague or the story of Exodus. This is a chance to share stories of Jewish heritage with younger generations. There are few gifts as valuable as the gift of a shared heritage.
This is also a great opportunity to share stories from your own family which is as valuable as any treat or toy. It’s a tangible connection to family history, and a great time to bond with grandchildren.
A great way to celebrate Hanukkah is with a larger community and to attend or find events near you. If you subscribe to a Jewish magazine or newspaper, there may be a list of nearby events or meetups. Some senior communities or groups will host luncheons for Jewish seniors wishing to celebrate with their peers. Visiting your local synagogue or temple can also be a great way to find Hanukkah events. After all, Hanukkah is still a religious holiday, so services are observed.
That said, the secular reputation of the holiday has caused many to host public celebrations. If you find an event near you, bundle up the family in warm clothes and share the experience with your loved ones.
From all of us at the Brookhouse Home, Happy Hanukkah!