Hanukka - 8 Crazy Facts for 8 Crazy Nights

Hanukka is arguably the most popular and best known of Jewish festivals. 

You probably know what it's all about: the Maccabees miraculously beat the Greeks and the thing with the day's worth of oil that burned for eight days... throw in some doughnuts and dreidles and yada yada you have Hannukah... or Chanuka, Hanukah, Hanukka...ok, however you spell it, here are a few crazy Festival of Lights facts that will make you a hit at any candle lighting: 


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1. On Hanukkah we don't light a Menorah, we light a Hanukkia. A Menorah only has 7 branches (and was found in the Temple), whereas a Hanukkia has 9. 


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2. Dreidles (little spinning tops) are slightly different in Israel to ones bought overseas. There are four Hebrew letters printed on each of the sides. In Israel, the letters are Nun, Gimel, Hay and Peh (נגהפ). Outside Israel the letters are  Nun, Gimel, Hay, Shin (נגהש). The letters stand for the Hebrew phrase “A great miracle happened there" (for those outside of Israel) or "here" (for those in Israel).


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3. Dreidles aren't usually made of clay - yea - we know the words of the song, "Dreidle dreidle dreidle, I made it out of clay..." but come on it's 2016, so today they're more likely to be made of plastic!!



 3. How do you spell Hanukkah? Apparently there are 16 variations in English (we've managed to find 12), but of course it isn't an English word, so the correct way to spell it is חנוכה.


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4. Hanukkah isn't the festival for the Jewish dieter - the average basic doughnut has around 500 calories. Add the flavored creamy toppings and wild fillings that are the craze in Israel and we're talking serious calories. It's estimated that Israelis eat 24 million sufganiyot (doughnuts) during the eight days of the festival. That adds up to 10.8 billion calories!


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5. #WinterIsComingHanukkah spans the days before and after the new moon, which are the darkest nights of the month. Kislev / December is also the darkest month of the winter (in the northern hemisphere anyway) so the Festival of Lights fills our homes with light at the darkest time of year.


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6. It isn't actually a Jewish tradition to give gifts on Hannukah, but over the past century it has become the norm, probably due to the influence of a certain non-Jewish festival that falls at the same time of year (no, not Kwanzaa!). Children used to get gifts of money - or 'gelt' - each night, then chocolate coins came along in the 1920's and in recent years gifts of toys have become standard in many western countries. 


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7. How many candles do you need? Simple math - you light one candle on the first night, and add one new one each night, so 2 on the second night, 3 on the third, etc, plus the "shamash," which is the candle you use to light all the others. You use a different shamash every night. That's a total of 44 candles. You don't really need to check this for yourself, because a standard box of Hanukkah candles has enough for all eight nights!


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8. No - the Hanukkah armadillo isn't a thing! 

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Tags: Judaism, festivals, hanukka, chanuka