Hanukkah Explained with Lilian

Hanukkah starts on 10th December, we sat down with Lilian to learn more about what it is, her early memories, and how she's celebrating this year.

Lilian, what is Hanukkah?

It's the Jewish festival of lights celebrated over 8 days. It's a festival about being together, with family and friends. We eat fried food like latkes and doughnuts, sing songs, give the kids presents and light candles.

Why is it celebrated over 8 days?

The story of Hanukkah is that the Syrian Greeks invaded Jerusalem, and this group of Jews called the Maccabees fought them back and kicked them out. They went into the temple to light the ceremonial light (which has to be on all the time) and they only had enough oil for one day, and it takes 8 days to make more. The miracle was that the oil that was supposed to last 1 day, lasted 8 days and nights.

How do you usually celebrate?

I go to my friend's or family's houses, and we each take our own Menorah (pictured below). Each Menorah has it's own story, all of different shapes and sizes, people may have got it from their grandparents, or when they were Bar-Mitzvahed...

We all light the candles of the Menorah together, just as the sun sets. You light the equivalent number of candles every day, from right to left. For example, one candle on the first day, then 8 candles on the 8th.

When you light the candle, there is a blessing and a traditional song everyone sings. Then we play games, and the kids get presents. A present every night.

What games do you play?

We have a dreidel (pictured below), which is a spinning top that has four sides, and each has Hebrew letters. You spin the dreidel and whoever wins gets chocolate coins, while singing these traditional songs.

What are your early memories of Hanukkah?

It's really eating the traditional foods, the deep-fried latkes, jam-filled doughnuts and chocolate coins. Being excited about the presents, who is going to light the Menorah, singing songs and playing games hiding the coins. It was always a gathering.

How will you celebrate this year?

The synagogue will run an online event so the community can be together and light the candles. I've invited some friends round to light the candles outside on each day, and I'm sharing my Latkes recipe with the Diaspo community.

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