Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.

English translation:

Blessed are you, Adonai Our God, Ruler of the Universe, who makes us holy through Your commandments, and commands us to kindle the Hanukkah lights.

The Second Blessing

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech haolam, she-asah nisim la’avoteinu v’imoteinu bayamim hahaeim baz’man hazeh.

English translation:
Blessed are You, Adonai Our God, Ruler of the universe, who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors in those ancient days at this season.

The Third Blessing (first night only):

On the first night , the shehecheyanu is also recited. It is a prayer of gratitude that is said on special occasions.

Baruch atah Adonai Elohenu Melech ha’olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu laz’man hazeh.

English translation:

Blessed are You, Adonai Our God, Ruler of the universe, Who has given us life and sustained us and enabled us to reach this season.

Dreidel: A Symbolic Game of Chance

Another cherished tradition involves the dreidel, a four-sided spinning top with Hebrew letters – Nun, Gimel, Hey, and Shin – representing the phrase “Nes Gadol Haya Sham,” meaning “A great miracle happened there.” The dreidel is used in a game of chance played during Hanukkah.

Participants in the dreidel game typically use tokens like chocolate coins or nuts. Each player starts with an equal number of tokens, and everyone takes turns spinning the dreidel. The letter the dreidel lands on determines the player’s next move:

  • Nun (נ): The player does nothing.
  • Gimel (ג): The player takes all the tokens from the pot.
  • Hey (ה): The player takes half of the tokens from the pot.
  • Shin (ש): The player adds tokens to the pot.

This game is not only a source of amusement but also a reminder of the historical events during the time of the Maccabees. The dreidel game is particularly popular among children, adding an element of excitement to the festivities.

Traditional Foods and Treats

Celebrated through the preparation and consumption of special foods, many of which are fried in oil as a symbolic nod to the miracle of the oil. One of the most iconic Hanukkah treats is the sufganiyah, a jelly-filled doughnut deep-fried until golden and then dusted with powdered sugar. Another popular dish is latkes, crisp potato pancakes that are fried to perfection. The emphasis on oil in these dishes serves as a culinary homage to the miracle that inspired Hanukkah.

In addition to these fried delights, dairy-based foods are sometimes enjoyed during Hanukkah. This tradition is linked to the story of Judith, a Jewish heroine who played a key role in the defeat of the Assyrian general Holofernes. Judith is said to have fed Holofernes dairy products, causing him to become thirsty and ultimately leading to his defeat. As a result, cheese and dairy items like blintzes and cheesecake have become associated together in some traditions.

 The Modern Context

While rooted in ancient history, the special Judaic day continues to be a vibrant and relevant celebration in the modern world. The festival serves as a reminder of the enduring spirit of the Jewish people, their resilience in the face of adversity, and the importance of religious freedom.

In contemporary times, Hanukkah has gained a broader cultural significance, transcending religious boundaries. In multicultural societies, people of various backgrounds often join in the celebrations, fostering understanding and unity. Public menorah lightings, community events, and educational programs contribute to the widespread acknowledgment of the special day.

The exchange of gifts has also become more common, influenced in part by the proximity of the festival to other major winter celebrations. Gift-giving is a way for families to express love and appreciation for one another, creating a sense of warmth and togetherness during the festival.  While the emphasis of the holiday is on the lighting of the menorah and commemorating the miracle of the oil in the Temple, gift-giving has become a cherished custom over the years.

The types of gifts given  vary, but they often reflect the spirit of the holiday and the values of the Jewish tradition. Here are some common types of gifts exchanged during Hanukkah:

  1. Gelt (Money): Giving and receiving gelt, which means “money” in Yiddish, is a traditional gift. Originally, gelt referred to small coins given to children, but in modern times, it often takes the form of chocolate coins wrapped in gold or silver foil.
  2. Dreidels: Dreidels are four-sided spinning tops with Hebrew letters on each side. They are used in a game played during the season, and giving colorful or decorative dreidels as gifts is a common practice. Some dreidels even come in sets with chocolate gelt.
  3. Menorahs: While the central focus of Hanukkah is the lighting of the menorah, gifting menorahs is also a popular tradition. Menorahs come in various designs, materials, and styles, allowing people to choose one that suits their taste and enhances their celebrations.
  4. Candles: Since the holiday involves lighting candles on the menorah, giving decorative candles is a thoughtful gift. These can be traditional candles or artistic and themed candles designed specifically for the holiday.
  5. Books: Books that celebrate Jewish culture, history, or spirituality can make meaningful gifts. Children’s books that tell the story of the 8 great nights in Judaism or books that explore Jewish traditions are often appreciated.
  6. Jewelry: Some people choose to exchange jewelry, such as pieces featuring the Star of David or other Jewish symbols. This can include necklaces, bracelets, or earrings with meaningful designs.
  7. Games and Toys: Families often exchange games and toys to entertain children during the holiday festivities. Board games, puzzles, and toys that promote learning about Jewish traditions are popular choices.
  8. Cookware and Food Items:  families come together to enjoy special meals. Gifting cookware, kitchen gadgets, or specialty food items that can be used in preparing traditional dishes adds a practical and festive touch.

While the specific gifts may vary among individuals and families, the essence of  gift-giving lies in fostering joy, togetherness, and the celebration of Jewish heritage. It’s a time for expressing love and appreciation for one another, reinforcing the importance of family and community during this special holiday.

Challenges and Reflections

The holiday is not only a time of celebration but also a period for reflection on the challenges faced by the Jewish people throughout history. The themes of religious persecution, resilience, and the quest for freedom are woven into the fabric of the festival. In a world where religious and cultural diversity is both celebrated and tested, this festival serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing struggles for religious freedom and tolerance.

Despite the joyous atmosphere , it is essential to acknowledge the historical context and the struggles faced by the Jewish community. The festival’s origins in the fight against religious oppression highlight the importance of standing against discrimination and promoting understanding among different communities.


Hanukkah stands as a beacon of light, both literally and metaphorically, in the Jewish calendar. It is a celebration of resilience, faith, and the triumph of light over darkness. The festival’s rituals, from lighting the menorah to playing the dreidel game and savoring traditional foods, bring families and communities together in a spirit of joy and unity.

As the religious commemoration continues to be observed worldwide, it serves as a bridge between the past and the present, connecting generations through shared traditions and stories. The festival’s universal themes of hope, perseverance, and the pursuit of freedom make it a time for people of all backgrounds to come together in celebration and reflection.

In lighting the menorah and kindling the flames of hope, the season encourages us to embrace the enduring message of unity, resilience, and the triumph of light over darkness. Well meaning people, across the world, wish the Jewish people  ” a Happy Hanukkah”.