“I have a little dreidel, I made it out of clay, and when it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play…”
The dreidel, a four-sided top, is one of the most well-known symbols of Hanukkah (http://www.aish.com/h/c/b/Why_Dreidel.html). Actually rarely made out of clay, functional and fun dreidels are created from a wide variety of materials and some dreidels are small works of art. (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/150987)
Starting at sundown on Saturday, December 8, and continuing through Sunday, December 16, Jews around the world will be playing dreidel, lighting the menorah, singing songs, eating special foods, and observing the holiday in joyous celebration.
Menorahs are lit at sundown each night for eight consecutive nights and range in styles and motifs from conservative to whimsical. (http://www.menorah.com/catalog2/shopdisplaycategories.asp?id=32&cat=+Menorahs) A menorah must have nine holders for candles or olive oil (burned with small floating wicks) – one for each night plus an extra one for the ‘helper,’ or shamash, used to light the others. Whereas Sabbath, or Shabbat, candles are lit in Jewish homes weekly, lighting the menorah is different because it does not usher in a holy period of time but instead commemorates a significant historical episode. Therefore, Hanukkah does not bring the same kinds of restrictions as Sabbath and is not even mentioned in the Torah; the events that inspired Hanukkah occurred after the Torah was written.
Specific blessings are said upon lighting the menorah and traditional songs of praise to God are sung in the glow of the lights afterward. Usually, age-old Hanukkah tunes are used, yet updated melodies and Hanukkah-related interpretations of contemporary music are widely available. (http://www.jewcy.com/news/four-of-the-maccabeats-have-a-new-hanukkah-pop-song-parody-medley) Similarly, new versions of traditional Hanukkah recipes, like latkes, potato pancakes fried in oil, are now popular for those who are counting calories or who are conscious of cholesterol. (http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/crispy_potato_latkes.html)
From night number one through day number eight, Hanukkah is a festive holiday. Although giving gifts on Hanukkah is not really mandated at all, doing so adds to the excitement of the season — as does sending Hanukkah wishes to friends and family. Send your Hanukkah e-greetings today!