Hanukkah - Festival of Lights

At Lore's Chocolates we are all about traditions, we are a Philadelphia Tradition® after all, and during the holidays this rings especially true. Below we are sharing some typical Hanukkah traditions.

Hanukkah Traditions - Lighting The Menorah & Playing the Dreidel Game

Lighting the Menorah

The lighting of the Menorah commemorates the historic moment after the Maccabees, a group of Jewish warriors who drove the Greeks from Jerusalem's ancient Temple. They celebrated their victory by lighting the menorah. Back then the menorah had only seven candles and was lit by ritually-pure olive oil, which took more than a week to prepare.

Although the amount of oil they had left should have only lasted to keep the menorah lit for one day, it miraculously burned for eight whole days, until new oil could be prepared - hence the reason Hanukkah is also referred to as the Miracle of Light.

In commemoration of their victory and that miracle of light, Jews now light candles for eight nights and menorahs have nine branches, one of which is reserved for the Shammash, also called the helper candle. This candle is used to light the others and is placed apart from the other candles, either higher or lower.

On the first night of Hanukkah only two candles (one plus the Shammash) are lit. Each night, another candle is added, so that on the last night of Hanukkah a total of nine candles are lit.


The meaning behind Hanukkah Gelt

Gelt is a Yiddish word for money. It became a Hanukkah tradition in the late middle ages for families to give their children gelt for their teacher to show their gratitude. Eventually, to encourage their studies of Judaism, children received coins as well. When children are given money today, they are encouraged to practice charity and give away a portion to those in need.

Candy manufacturers started producing gold wrapped coins in the 20th century, which are handed out in place of real money.

Jonathan Sarna, who teaches American Jewish history at Brandeis University, acknowledges in an interview with NPR "that the rise of chocolate gelt, in the early- to mid-20th century, is a small part of Hanukkah. But adopting new traditions — and connecting them to the past — is part of the larger story of Americanization."

Plus, the new chocolate gelt makes for an excellent wager when playing the dreidel game.


Playing the Dreidel Game

Playing the dreidel game is one of the most cherished Hanukkah traditions.

Some believe the game was created to learn Hebrew in secret, to study the Torah after Greek King Antiochus IV had outlawed all Jewish religious worship in 175 BCE. Today it's a way to have fun with family & friends!

The dreidel is marked with 4 Hebrew letters nun (נ), gimmel (ג), hey (ה) and shin (ש), which stand for nes gadol haya sham - “a great miracle happened there,” while in Israel the dreidel is labeled with the letters nun, gimmel, hey, pey (פ), which means “a great miracle happened here.”

These letters have the following meanings: nun for נישט (nisht, "not", meaning "nothing"), gimel for גאַנץ (gants, "entire, whole"), hei for האַלב (halb, "half"), and shin for שטעלן אַרײַן (shtel arayn, "put in").

To play the game each participant gets an equal amount of game pieces - chocolate gold coin or hanukkah gelt are perfect here - and puts one piece in the middle to start the game.

Each player gets one turn to spin the dreidel. The way the dreidel lands determines what happens next before the next player takes their turn.

  • If נ‎ (nun) is facing up - the spinner gets nothing
  • If ג‎ (gimel) is facing up - the spinner gets everything in the middle
  • If ה‎ (hei) is facing up - the spinner gets half of the pieces in the middle
  • If ש‎ (shin) or פ‎ (pe) is facing up - the spinner needs to add one piece to the middle

Be it lighting the menorah, spinning dreidels or eating chocolate coins, all traditions are bonds that strengthen family ties and connect us to our family history. Whatever your family's traditions - enjoy them and celebrate them, keeping fond memories of loved ones alive.

We love seeing how you incorporate our products into your family traditions. Tag us online with @loreschocolates, so we can share in your holiday joy.