Many jokes have been shared about the complexity of growing up Jewish surrounded by Christian friends and the overwhelming influence of Christmas come the month of December. Seemingly everywhere you look buildings, stores and homes are decked out in lights and decorations. But Christmas celebrants are not the only ones with reason to be festive this time of year, when Chanukah is also cause for celebration.
Perhaps due to its proximity to Thanksgiving and Christmas, Chanukah tends to be the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday in America. Even though it is officially listed as a minor holiday, Chanukah is important to families across the globe. In fact, because the basis of Chanukah is rededication to the faith, it very well may be an instrumental celebration for families who may need to find their way back to the roots of their beliefs.
Chanukah celebrations may not feature lavishly decorated trees or scores of celebrants belting out carols, but it bears significance for the thousands of people who celebrate each year. While Chanukah is steeped in tradition, the following are a handful of ways you can add a creative spin to your family's festivities this year.
Light: One of the major tenets of Chanukah is how light can shine and lead a person through dark periods. This is typically exemplified by the lighting of the menorah, which is prominently placed in windows or other visible areas of celebrants' homes. This Chanukah spend time with someone who may be dealing with an illness or the loss of a loved one. You may be the light that inspires this person each day. Give candles to friends and family members to symbolize the light that will shine in the future.
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Oil: Another component of Chanukah celebrations is the focus on how a one-day supply of oil somehow lasted eight days during the rededication of the temple's menorah. Many ways to include oil in celebrations exist. Some people like to get creative in the kitchen, serving fried foods and desserts. Think about giving gifts of oil, such as fragrant essential oils that can be used in potpourri or in the bath or shower. Working alongside their parents, children can see how a wick drenched in oil can serve as an efficient lighting source and decorate the home with these homemade oil lamps.
Twenty-five: Bring attention to the number 25, which is significant when celebrating Chanukah. The word Chanukah can be divided into two: Chanu, meaning “they rested," and Kah, which is the numerical value of 25. On the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the Maccabees rested from their battle with the Greeks and triumphantly marched into the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Make 25 a part of celebrations by inviting 25 people to celebrate with you or ask children to make murals with 25 different adornments.
Charitable giving: Gift-giving is now a component of Chanukah celebrations, but it wasn't always. Greater importance was once placed on the lighting of candles to publicize the miracle and evangelize the faith. Some poor people could not afford candles, and these people would go door-to-door for candle funds, or “gelt," to be able to purchase candles and kiddush wine. Some Jewish families prefer to give money rather than gifts on Chanukah to keep with the tradition of Chanukah gelt. However, families also can incorporate charitable giving in their celebrations as a way to reinforce the customs of giving to the poor.