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Hanukkah Fun Facts, History, Bean Bags as Gifts, More!

Posted November 20, 2013

As the days grow colder, Jewish and Messianic believers look forward to the celebration of Hanukkah, or Chanukah. Usually falling in November or December, this religious holiday takes place over the course of eight days in which celebrants commemorate the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century. Although a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah has grown in popularity and standing in recent years. The holiday is known for certain common traditions, including the lighting of the menorah, the eating of traditional foods, the playing of games, and more recently, the giving of gifts.

Hanukkah Facts

History of the Rebellion
Beginning around 2000 B.C.,  Antiochus III took control of Judea. Antiochus III, the Seleucid king of Syria, was somewhat of a benign conqueror in that he allowed the Jewish believers to continue living in the area and worship as they had previously. His son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, or more commonly known as Antiochus Epiphanes, would prove to be less kindly toward the Jewish believers in Judea. Rather than allow them to continue worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Antiochus outlawed the practice of the Jewish religion. He instead insisted that the Jewish believers worship  Greek gods. As a final insult, Antiochus and his soldiers massacred thousands and desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem. An altar to Zeus was erected in the Temple, and Antiochus insisted that pigs, a non-kosher animal, be sacrificed there.

The victory of the re-taking of the Temple for the Jewish people was the culmination of a long rebellion against the Seleucid monarchy. Judah Maccabee, or “The Hammer,” led the final stage of the revolt. Through the use of clever tactics and guerrilla warfare, Maccabee and his followers drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem. He then called on them to cleanse the Temple. Part of this was the rebuilding of the altar and the lighting of the menorah. It was in this last action that they would realize God's provision and blessing, revealing the Hanukkah miracle. Even though there was only enough oil to light the menorah for one day, the candles remained lit after eight nights. This miracle led to the eight-day celebration known as Hanukkah.

Hanukkah Customs
Perhaps the most common element of Hanukkah celebrations is the lighting of the menorah. This is the only religious custom of the holiday. The menorah holds nine candles—one for each night—plus the shammus candle, or helper. Each night, another candle is lit, and blessings are recited. By the eighth night, all nine candles are lit. In addition to the commemoration of the Hanukkah miracle, the candles also remind believers that everything in the natural world is a blessing from God.

Another traditional part of the holiday celebration is the eating of fried food. This is mainly due to the significance of oil in the Hanukkah festivities. For one group of believers, a favorite food of the time would be latkes, or potato pancakes. A popular food in Israel during Hanukkah is the doughnut; believers consume these doughnuts in large numbers during the holiday. No matter the food eaten, Hanukkah meals are a wonderful part of the celebrations.

Finally, there is the dreidel, a popular game. Although there are many stories related to its origin, the dreidel is apparently similar to games played worldwide over the course of centuries. There are games like the dreidel found in England, Ireland, and Germany. No matter its origin, the dreidel is a fun part of the Hanukkah festivities.

Hanukkah Gifts
Giving gifts on Hanukkah was actually not a traditional part of the celebration of the holiday. As Jewish believers came in contact with Christians, it was not uncommon for Jewish children to have a bit of jealousy over the gifts that the other children received for Christmas. In order to relieve this frustration, believers began giving gifts to their young children. One of the most common gifts is “gelt,” or money.

Over the years, Hanukkah gifts have become quite popular, and sometimes unusual. For American Jewish believers this year, there is an additional element of fun in that Thanksgiving falls on the first day of Hanukkah. Turkeys are appearing in great numbers as a part of Hanukkah gifts, whether menorahs, greeting cards, clothing, or even food. This rare blend of the holidays has been a fun one for believers this year.

Bean bag chairs would also be a great gift for all ages. They are a practical gift that would delight anyone during Hanukkah. While not a traditional gift for the holiday, bean bags would be a great alternative. Too, they could be enjoyed every day and not just once per year.  Try quality ones like those at www.ahhprods.com, offering bean bags since 1998.

Hanukkah has a very rich history and brings believers the chance to celebrate during the winter months.  Beginning with the religious observance of lighting the menorah to the fun of latkes and dreidels, the holiday is one that is sure to bring fun and good memories to all who observe it.

Do you celebrate Hanukkah?  What traditions does your family love the most and why?

Thanks to Krista for this very enlightening article!

Jade is the founder and CEO of Ahh! Products. Find her on

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