A brief introduction to the Jewish Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah.
Hanukkah is perhaps the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday and, although not a high holiday and not as much fun as Purim, it is very much a joyful occasion celebrated with delicious food, the exchange of gifts, and the lighting of special menorah, Hanukkiah or Hanukiyot, usually with various and brightly coloured candles.
Hanukkah begins every year on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev which this year corresponds to the evening (sundown) of Saturday the 8th of December 2012. Also called the Festival of Lights, or Festival of Dedication, it is an eight day holiday celebrating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabee rebellion. According to the Talmud, there was only sufficient consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day but miraculously the oil burned for eight days which was enough time to press and prepare some additional olive oil.
Hanukkah, also frequently spelled Chanukah, Chanukkah, Hannukah or Hanukka and with various alternative spellings, translates from Hebrew into English as Renewal or Rededication. It is celebrated in Jewish homes by the kindling of lights on each night of the festival: the first candle on the right in the special Hanukkah menorah (Hanukkiah) will be lit on night one, the candle immediately to the left of that will be lit on night two, and so on until the eighth night. The additional candle in the middle of the special Hanukkah Menorah is used to light the others in the way that a taper might be employed. Blessings will usually be recited prior to, during and after the lighting of the candles and singing is customary.
With two more branches than the menorah, the Hanukkiah is a candelabra with nine branches which is lit during the holiday of Hanukkah; the ninth branch holds the candle which is used to kindle all the other candles and is called a shamash.
Potato pancakes, or latkes, are traditionally associated with Hanukkah as the custom is to eat foods which have been fried in oil, particularly olive oil. It is not uncommon for each member of the Jewish household to have their own menorah.
The dreidel, or sevivon, is a spinning top with four sides that children (or adults) may play with at Hanukkah. Each one of the four sides is traditionally printed with a Hebrew letter which spells out an acronym for "A great miracle happened there" or "A great miracle happened here".
Hanukkah gelt, or money, is often given to children as part of the celebration and is usually in the form of small coins or may be replaced with foil wrapped (kosher) chocolate coins.
For Hanukkah cards, you need look no further than frisky frog for a collection of handcrafted greetings cards which can be personalised on the front with your individually written message for no additional charge, and can be posted direct to the recipient(s) on your behalf dependent on your individual requirements.