Hannukah Holiday Traditions, Greeting Cards, Clothing

Chanukah 2013 / 5774 Cards, Decorations, Gifts

Chanukah lights

Chanukah, the Festival of Lights

First candle lighting in the evening of Wednesday November 27, 2013 (the first "day" of Chanukah being Thursday 28 November, 2013 ). Candle lighting is each evening following that until the evening of Wednesday 4 December, 2013 . The last full day of Chanukah this year is Thursday December 5, 2013 .

Many of our cards say "Happy Chanukah" in Hebrew, which is "Chanukah Sameach" (pronounced Sa-may-ach with the sort of Germanic gutteral ch sound). Click on the card at the left to see t-shirts and cards with this and other designs.

History of Hannukah

Chanukah is based upon historical events spanning an era from about 165 b.c.e. to about 80 c.e. Documented by historians such as Josephus, the scroll of the Hasmoneans, as well as modern scholars, the laws and traditions are set out primarily in the Babylonian Talmud tractate Shabbath. While the agreement was that one light per household per night would certainly suffice to commemorate the miracles of Chanukah, the practice of each person lighting an increasing number of lights from one to eight corresponding to each night has universally been accepted as the Chanukah candle custom.

Hanukah candles

The scroll of the Hasmoneans emphasizes the military victory and re-establishment of the service in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem as well as the miracle of one small cruz of oil lasting long enough for new pure oil to be prepared. The miracles of Chanukah are thus celebrated by "advertising the miracle" through lighting candles. The Chanukiah, or Chanukah menorah, has 9 branches: one for each day of the holiday, plus one "shamash" which is used to light the others.

The lighting of the Chanuka menorah candles can be done with regular candles which last at least 1/2 hour, or with oil, olive oil being the most praiseworthy material for the light. Any oil and wicks which burn clearly, cleanly, and without sputtering can be used.

On the first night, the candle farthest to the right in the menorah is lit. The second night, one candle is added to the left of that, and this candle is lit first, then the candle in the first position. This pattern is repeated, adding one candle to the next position left of the previous evening for all eight nights.

You can purchase Hanukah candles online at Judaism.com. There are even Vanilla or raspberry scented chanukah candles!

Chanukah Gifts, Chanukah Gelt, and Spinning the Dreidel

Dreidel letter meaning

Tradition has it that during the period of King Antiochus's decree against the religious practices of Judaism (circa 168 b.c.e.), adherents of the faith who learned Torah would quickly hide their scrolls of learning and play games when the Romans would come to check on them. This became the basis for the Dreidel game. The letters on the dreidel, or four sided top, are Nun, Gimmel, Heh, and then either a Peh or a Shin, denoting whether the dreidel is from the Land of Israel, or outside of it.

Dreidel playing became like a card game, with the roll of the dreidel determining whether the player put in to the kitty, took half of the kitty, took the whole kitty, or won nothing. This became the source for Chanukah Gelt -- literally Chanukah money. Today many households use chocolate coins for the Hanukah dreidel game. Use of real money led to parental lesson planning for children on how to tithe their money for charity. Thus, Chanukah Gelt is also often a gift of real money.

wooden dreidel

Chanukah gifts are a more recent addition, adapted more from the commercial aspects of other cultures' winter holidays. However, materialism aside, it is always a nice thing to give gifts, making the holiday special in the eyes of children and family. Some Hanukah gift ideas:

chanukah t-shirthannuka teddy bearHanukah cap hat

Musical Dancing Rabbi DollCeramic DraydelHanuka Candles

Other Chanukah Traditions

Many families also bake cookies, fry potato latkes, make homemade donuts or other fried dough dainties, and enjoy dairy meals. The source for all the fried food is the miracle of the oil. The reasoning behind the dairy foods is based upon Midrash (Biblical sermonic material). The Midrash tells of Judith, daughter of the high priest, who tricks the evil Roman/Greek captain into drinking himself into a stupor by feeding him dairy products for a meal. The dairy makes him thirsty, and she gives him wine to sate his thirst until he falls asleep. As he sleeps, she cuts off his head. When the army realizes their captain is dead, they retreat for the time being. Such is the midrash, and it makes for a great reason to make dairy Chanukah desserts for eight days.

Chanukah Cards

Along with gift giving, the sending of Chanukah cards has become a modern day tradition. The long nights of winter finally getting shorter again make a perfect time to drop a line to your friends and loved ones to let them know how you're doing and what's new. For grandparents, a chanukah card is a great way to send off a little bit of Chanukah Gelt to far away grandchildren.

Jewishbyte.com features Chanukah cards designed with original photos from Israel, often using lights in the night as the photographic theme. Click on the image below to see our full range of Chanukah cards and postcards.

Reasons to send real Chanukah cards, not ecards:

  1. Real cards always get opened. In today's age of spam screening emails, your e-card notice may never even arrive.
  2. Real cards will be remembered. Send a memorable note this year, wishing your friends and family the best of years.
  3. Real cards are safe for your computer. No harvesting your email address, nor the email address of your recipients, no downloadable virii, no spyware, no ads, just 100% pure Chanukah cards.
  4. It's a tradition! Badada-dada-dada-dada-dum. When you live far from family and friends, a card at Chanukah lets them know you wish them a great new year.

chanukah cards
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Chanukah D'var Torah

Chanukah is a Jewish holiday with lots of interesting hints (remezim). The total number of candles lit over the 8 days is 36 (1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8). Geometrically, this kind of sum is depicted as a triangle. The mystical significance of the triangle can be seen as the evolution or development of multiplicity from singularity through interlinking levels.

At the same time, 36 is a square, specifically the square of 6. The square relates to hitkolalut, the mutual inclusion of all parts of the whole within each part. This is the first number since the number 1 which is both a triangle of a number and a square of a number. As depicted, the square on an inverted triangle gives us a dreidel:

The number 36 is associated in Jewish folklore with the number of Hidden Righteous people in whose merit the whole world exists. We light an additional candle each day, bringing more and more light into the world. In the merit of our bringing light with the menorah, may we merit to bring light into the world with all of our deeds.

chanukah cards
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