By: Beth Evarts
It’s the holiday season and along with the season brings memories of Christmas /Hanukkah, treasured memories with family, friends and holiday traditions. Every culture has its own traditions to the holiday season from special foods that are only served during this time of the year to the special decorations that are homemade or have been gather over the years to represent a special time.
Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.
Holiday decorations from the all-time favorite mistletoe that began in the eighteenth-century and the English credited with a certain magical appeal called a kissing ball. At Christmas time, a young lady standing under a ball of mistletoe, brightly trimmed with evergreens, ribbons, and ornaments, cannot refuse to be kissed. Such a kiss could mean deep romance or lasting friendship and goodwill. If the girl remained unkissed, she cannot expect not to marry the following year. Another old world tradition is the pickle, an ornamental pickle is placed on a Christmas tree as one of the Christmas decorations. On Christmas morning, the first child to find the pickle on the tree would receive an extra present from Santa and would be said to have a year of good fortune.
Traditions vary from family to family and as the family grows so do the traditions. Over the years, times have changed and in today’s world, we have many families who have brought together two cultures in one household and they are teaching their children both of the holidays Hanukkah and Christmas and allowing them to experience both cultures and as the children become of age they will decide themselves which holiday if not both are near and dearest to their hearts.
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights is an eight-day Jewish Holiday. The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum ( the nine-branched Menorah). On each night of the holiday, one candle is lit, progressing to eight on the final night. The word Chanukah or Hanukkah means rededication, in the case of the holiday rededication of the temple after the Maccabees’ victory over the Greek-Syrians. The spiritual meaning of Hanukkah is one of faith in God; in remaining true to one’s traditional beliefs even when forbidden to do so by the authorities and is a story about the courage of the Maccabees. They risked their lives and won against all odds because they believed in the courage of their convictions. The Hanukkah menorah is also called a Chanukah and it has nine branches. The ninth branch is elevated above the others and is known as the Shamash or service candle. A menorah with a Shamash may only be used during Hanukkah. The Chanukah is usually placed in a window where it can be viewed from the outside so that passers-by can see it and reflect on the story of Hanukkah. Each night, the family gathers around while a candle is lit and a blessing is recited to remember God’s faithfulness to his people. The gift-giving tradition of Hanukkah has evolved out of the Jewish tradition of giving “gelt” or money to children if they could correctly answer questions about the meaning of Hanukkah. Children are often given gifts instead of money. There is a symbolism associated with the giving of gelt (gelt is a Yiddish term that means money). After their victory over the Greek-Syrians, the Jews were permitted to mint their own money; hence the coins or gelt refers to this hard-won freedom. It further reminds people to be charitable and share with those in need.
The holiday season is such a magical time of the year and it doesn’t matter what holiday you celebrate or what traditions are near and dear to your heart it is about family and friends and being thankful for what we have day in and day out.
In closing, here is a little trivia for fun.
- Christmas trees have been sold in the U.S. since 1850.
- Approximately 30-35 million real (living) Christmas trees are sold each year in the U.S
- Christmas trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold.
- It is estimated that the single “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin is the bestselling single of all time, with over 100 million sales worldwide.
- In 1962, the first Christmas postage stamp was issued in the United States.
- A Dreidel is a four-sided spinning top decorated with a Hebrew letter on each side. It is a very important part of Hanukkah.
- Because Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods, such as latkes and sufganiyot during the holiday. Latkes are pancakes made out of potatoes and onions, which are fried in oil and then served with applesauce. Sufganiyot (singular: sufganiyah) are jelly-filled donuts that are fried and sometimes dusted with confectioners’ sugar before eating.
From our house to yours “Happy Holidays”.