If you are going home for Hanukkah, odds are pretty good that you will be greeted by a lit menorah. Depending on which day you come home, you will quite possibly be greeted by the traditional lighting of the next candle and the accompanying well-wishes and blessings that are part of this way of celebrating Hanukkah. These candles symbolize the miracle that took place when the temple at Jerusalem was rededicated to serve God. At that time, there was only enough oil left in the flask to allow the menorah to burn for one night. Yet, because of a miracle, the menorah actually remained lit for eight nights!
Another great way of celebrating Hanukkah is the dreidel game. This game is a favorite of both young and old, and many children wish to receive this game for Hanukkah. The dreidel itself is nothing more than a top with four sides. Each side is inscribed with a symbol, such as "no win/lose", "take all", "take half", and "lose." The players will deposit a certain number of funds, usually in the form of chocolate coins readily available for Hanukkah at the local mega mart, in the pot and begin spinning the dreidel. Following the simple instructions, this game is played until everyone is out of funds. With children, the trick to the game is to keep them from eating the sweet currency prior to the end of the game itself! Like all traditions, this game is steeped in history. In the old days when the Jewish people were prohibited upon the pain of death to worship G-d, they very frequently would meet in secret and study the holy texts surreptitiously. Should they be on the verge of discovery by the Roman soldiers, they would hide away the holy texts and instead pretend to simply be gathered for a friendly game of dreidel.
Of course, not celebration for Hanukkah would be complete without the traditional potato pancakes, most commonly referred to as latkes. Granted, these were not on the menu at the time of the rededication of the temple, party because the potato was not already available in that pat of the world at that time, yet the use of oil in the preparing of the dish is actually the key ingredient to what makes this dish so popular.
Naturally, for Hanukkah there are also other traditions that have been passed down over the centuries. It is interesting to note that the tradition of the Hanukkah song is somewhat limited, especially when considering the wealth of Christmas songs that may be found. There are enough Christmas songs that have been written, recorded, and re-recorded to allow a radio station to play nothing but Christmas music nonstop for one month straight without having to repeat them too often. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the average Hanukkah song. As a matter of fact, apart from the traditional songs, there are only a few new offerings that have been added over the years, and they are still slow in picking up a following.
Nonetheless, it is not the song that makes the holiday but the history behind it. This occasion is beautifully remember today with many traditions, loving memories that are passed on from generation to generation, and also the spirit of gift-giving and overall generosity that makes the holiday season truly the most wonderful time of the year.