Chanukah commemorates an oil-based miracle—which explains why we eat oily foods to commemorate it. Some eat fried potato pancakes, a.k.a. latkes, while others eat sufganiyot or bumuelos—deep-fried doughnuts. Some eat both. Most survive the holiday.

Yes, food can be dangerous. One of the greatest Maccabee victories was the result of feeding the enemy cheese—so we also eat dairy foods on Chanukah. Again, we survive. Click here for the full story.

Chanukah Gelt

During Chanukah it is customary to give gelt (money) to children, so that we can teach them to give some of it to charity—and just to keep things festive and happy. Some have the admirable custom of gelt-giving each weeknight of Chanukah. They survive this, too.


Some have the admirable custom of gelt-giving each weeknight of ChanukahThe Greek oppressors outlawed Torah schools, so the children would study in the forests, posting sentries to alert them of Greek patrols. When the alert came, the children would hide their texts and start playing with dreidels (spinning tops).

We, too, play dreidel games on Chanukah to commemorate the courage of these heroic children. The four Hebrew letters on the dreidel are an acronym for “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham”—a great miracle happened there. So playing dreidel keeps us mindful of the Chanukah miracles even during fun and games.

The Prayers

Each day of Chanukah we thank G‑d by reciting the complete Hallel in the morning prayer service. We also insert a special prayer of thanksgiving, V’al Hanissim, in the prayers and Grace after Meals. Every morning we read from the Torah about the inauguration offerings brought in honor of the dedication of the Tabernacle—reminiscent of the Maccabean rededication of the defiled Temple.

Shabbat Chanukah

On Friday afternoon, light the menorah before lighting the Shabbat candles. The Friday night Chanukah candles must burn for at least 1½ hours—so you may need more oil or larger candles. On Saturday night, light the menorah after dark, after the Havdalah ceremony.

Click here for more on Chanukah observances.