14 reasons everyone should be sad they don't celebrate Hanukkah

·4 min read
hanukkah candles menorah
Hanukkah candles.JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images
  • Hanukkah is an awesome holiday.

  • Fried foods like latkes (potato pancakes), sufganiyot (jelly donuts), and bimuelos (fried dough balls) are delicious.

  • Lighting the menorah brings friends, families, and communities together — even virtually.

Many Jewish holidays can be summed up as "We fought, we won, now let's eat," and Hanukkah is no exception.

A communal menorah lighting ceremony in Mumbai, India.
A communal menorah lighting ceremony in Mumbai, India.Rafiq Maqbool/AP

The story goes that while the Jews were living under the Greek empire around 166 BC, King Antiochus IV outlawed Judaism and defiled the Holy Temple that stood in Jerusalem by sacrificing pigs on the altar. A small Jewish army called the Maccabees led a rebellion against the Greeks and won. When they returned to the Temple to relight the ritual menorah (candelabra), they only found enough oil to last one day, but it miraculously lasted eight.

Jewish people commemorate the Maccabees' victory during Hanukkah by lighting a menorah for eight nights and eating fried foods made with oil.

Hanukkah is one of the most recognizable, widely celebrated Jewish holidays around the world — for good reason.

Hanukkah is eight days long.

A lit menorah on Hanukkah.
Eight candles, plus one that acts as a lighter.Courtesy of Matt Paretsky

That's eight days of parties, presents, and festive foods.

Latkes, fried potato pancakes traditionally eaten on Hanukkah, are delicious.

A close up photo of homemade latkes.
Homemade latkes.Deborah Lakritz

They go perfectly with applesauce, sour cream, and a variety of dipping sauces. Even celebrity chefs have their own versions.

Sufganiyot are jelly doughnuts. They are also a traditional Hanukkah food and they are also delicious.

Jelly doughnuts known as "sufganiyot" eaten on Hanukkah.
Jelly doughnuts.Courtesy of Tamar Lakritz

In addition to a jelly filling, some sufganiyot are filled with chocolate or custard.

Jews of Sephardic ancestry also make fried doughnut fritters called bimuelos.

A father and daughter fry bimuelos, a traditional Sephardic Hanukkah food.
Frying up bimuelos.Sarah Aroeste

Bimuelos, a Ladino variation on the Spanish bunuelos, were a popular dish with Spanish Jews known as Marranos in the 15th to 17th centuries.

Chocolate coins, also known as "gelt" (Yiddish for "money"), make great gifts and add a decorative touch to any table.

Hanukkah gelt, also known as chocolate coins.
Hanukkah gelt.Derek Hatfield/Shutterstock

They come in milk and dark chocolate varieties.

Real "gelt" — giving gifts of money — is also a thing.

Holiday cards for Hanukkah.
Holiday cards for Hanukkah.Orlin Wagner/AP

Because of Hanukkah's proximity to Christmas, some people have a custom to give gifts of money instead of material goods in order to distinguish the holiday traditions.

The dreidel game is strangely addictive.

People playing the dreidel game on Hanukkah.
Spinning dreidels.Courtesy of Liza Wohlberg

"Dreidel" is Yiddish for "spinning top." It has four sides with a different Hebrew letter on each one. Players start with a supply of coins, chocolate or otherwise, and take turns spinning. Depending on which letter the top lands on, they put a coin in the middle, skip their turn, win half of the coins, or take home the entire pot.

Legend has it that when the Greeks outlawed Jewish practices, people would continue studying sacred texts in secret and whip out this simple game if anyone asked what they were doing.

Hanukkah songs are great, and more are written every year.

A screenshot in which Adam Sandler sings his famous Hanukkah song on Saturday Night Live.
Adam Sandler sings his famous Hanukkah song on Saturday Night Live.Saturday Night Live/YouTube

Because you don't hear Hanukkah songs blasted in shopping malls starting from Thanksgiving, you can actually enjoy them. And Jewish a cappella groups like the Maccabeats and Y-Studs put out Hannukkah-themed parodies of popular hits every year, so the playlist never feels stale.

Hearing new Jewish music live at Hanukkah concerts is even better.

Singer Neshama Carlebach performs at a Hanukkah concert.
Singer Neshama Carlebach performs at a benefit Hanukkah concert for the nonprofit Jewish Queer Youth.Jewish Queer Youth

Hanukkah concerts often include latkes and sufganiyot as part of the ticket price. Win-win.

Hanukkah parties are, as the kids say, lit.

A group of people hold candles at a party.
A Hanukkah party hosted by Young Jewish Professionals — Los Angeles.YJP Los Angeles Chanukah Soiree 2018

There are usually tons of in-person Hanukkah gatherings across the world, full of good food and good music. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, some celebrations have gone virtual.

You've heard of Christmas tree lighting events, but have you heard of Hanukkah menorah lighting events?

A public menorah lighting ceremony in New York City.
Onlookers watch during the lighting of what was billed as the "World's Largest Menorah" in New York in 2012.Mario Tama/Getty Images

Publicizing the miracle of Hanukkah is an important tradition with origins in the Talmud. Many organizations usually hold public menorah lightings in cities around the world.

In individual homes, lit menorahs are often placed in or near windows so that they're visible to the outside.

Two women look at a menorah lit with Hanukkah candles with happy expressions.
Lighting Hanukkah candles.Tova Kamioner

It doesn't take more than a few minutes to light the flames, recite the blessings, and sing a song or two, but it's a memorable tradition.

Lighting the menorah is a beautiful way to gather loved ones and communities together.

Two people pose for a selfie with a lit menorah, one resting their head on the other's shoulder.
Lighting Hanukkah candles.Galia Godel

Holiday lights can create some eye-catching displays, but cozying up to watch flickering candles burn down on a winter night has a magic all its own.

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