Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah starts tonight, and goes for 8 more nights! Do you know about Hanukkah? Captain Create has gone to New York City to meet with his friend Julie (she’s Jewish!) to play a game, learn a few words of Yiddish, and to make a yummy traditional foods: latkes and jelly donuts! Recipes are below!

Hanukkah is a Jewish Festival of Lights, and the history of Hanukkah goes back over 2,000 years. Back in 139 BCE, the Maccabees returned to Jerusalem to liberate it. In the Temple, they built a new altar and made a new menorah. When they wanted to light it, they found they only had enough oil to light it for one day. But that lamp kept burning for eight nights and was considered a miracle.

Since then a festival of lights has been celebrated every year to remember the occasion. Candles are lit for eight nights, and families eat yummy foods and exchange presents.

The Hanukkah candlestick holder that has been used since the time of the temple is called a menorah (say “meh-NO-rah”). It has spots for nine candles – one for each night of Hanukkah and the extra candle, called the Shamash, is used to light all of the others.

Each night at sundown, family and friends gather to light another candle on the hanukkah. Songs and prayers are often said, and then it’s time to eat! To celebrate the history of the holiday many traditional dishes are cooked using oil. One of the most popular Hanukkah foods is the latke (say “LOT-kuh”). Latkes are potato pancakes, fried and then served with applesauce or sour cream. Sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) are a popular dessert.

A traditional game to play during Hanukkah is dreidel.

The Hebrew word for dreidel is sevivon, which, as in Yiddish, means “to turn around.” Dreidel s have four Hebrew letters on them, and they stand for the saying, Nes gadol haya sham, meaning A great miracle occurred there. Playing with the dreidel is a traditional Hanukkah game played in Jewish homes all over the world, and rules may vary. 

Here is a link to Scholastic for a printable dreidel to make your own! Click here.

Here’s how to play the basic dreidel game:

1. Any number of people can take part.

2. Each player begins the game with an equal number of game pieces (about 10-15) such as pennies, nuts, chocolate chips, raisins, matchsticks, etc.

3. At the beginning of each round, every participant puts one game piece into the center “pot.” In addition, every time the pot is empty or has only one game piece left, every player should put one in the pot.

4. Every time it’s your turn, spin the dreidel once. Depending on the side it lands on, you give or get game pieces from the pot. For those who don’t read Hebrew, some dreidels also feature a transliteration of each letter. If yours doesn’t, use the photo below as a cheat sheet:

a) Nun means “nisht” or “nothing.” The player does nothing.

b) Gimel  means “gantz” or “everything.” The player gets everything in the pot.

c) Hey means “halb” or “half.” The player gets half of the pot. (If there is an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes half of the total plus one).

d) Shin (outside of Israel) means “shtel” or “put in.” Peh (in Israel) also means “put in.” The player adds a game piece to the pot.

5. If you find that you have no game pieces left, you are either “out” or may ask a fellow player for a “loan.”

6. When one person has won everything, that round of the game is over!

Let’s get cooking!

Make these recipes with your family and make them part of a healthy family meal!

Thanks to Canada’s CBCkids and Chef Julie Goldstein for the Hanukkah info, and Neta Cooks for Sufganiyot.

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