Answers to Common Questions about Chanukah
What does Chanukah mean in Hebrew?
Chanukah or Hanukkah is the Hebrew term for rededication.
When does Chanukah begin?
Chanukah begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the Jewish calendar (November/December). It is celebrated for eight days in honor of the Jewish victory and the miracle of the oil lasting for 8 days to rededicate the temple.
How is the Dreidel game played? What do the sides of the Driedel mean?
A beloved Chanukah decoration, the Dreidel is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters inscribed on each side. The Dreidel game is played by giving each player a number of coins or candy pieces. Before spinning the dreidel, each player puts a fixed proportion of the amount of coins received into the "Kupah" or kitty. Each player in turn spins the dreidel. When the dreidel falls, it will fall on one of the 4 letters. According to the letter, the following will happen:
- Nun - no win / no lose
- Gimmel - take all (from the kitty)
- Heh - take half (from the kitty)
- Peh or Shin - lose (what you deposited)
Chanukah or Hanukkah? Which is correct?
Why do some people write Chanukah while others say Hanukkah? Rabbi Mark S. Diamond explains that these are two different English spellings and neither is incorrect. The Hebrew word for the festival of lights, Hanukkah/Chanukah, consists of five Hebrew characters opening with the consonant het (chet). This letter is not the same as the English letter "h" (as in house). It is also not the same as "ch" (as in child). It is a Hebrew guttural sound that has no precise equivalent in English.
What is a Latke?
The most popular ingredient in Chanukah dishes is oil. Why? Because the oil reminds the Jewish people of the small cruse of oil that burned eight days instead of one.
Latkes are potato pancakes made from grated potatoes mixed with eggs, onions, and flour, and fried in vegetable oil. They are crispy on the outside yet soft inside. They are served hot and often dipped in apple sauce or sour cream.
The Maccabee soldiers ate latkes made from cheese, vegetables, or fruits which were brought to them on the battlefields. However, they didn't eat potato latkes, as potatoes weren't available until the sixteenth century.