Hanukkah, the Jewish festival also known as the Festival of Lights, commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and it's one of the more culturally significant holidays in the Jewish calendar.
Falling in November or December, the festival lasts eight days and is full of festivities, family, and fun! We spoke to Or Danielle about how she and her family celebrate the holiday, including traditions both old and new.
Describe in your own words Hanukkah and what it means to you and your family
Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of light, a holiday that commemorates the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem. It’s a very special festival for me and my family as we get to spend quality time together, eat delicious food and play games. We are true foodies at home so it’s one of our favourite Jewish holidays because of all the serious carbs involved!
The story of Hanukkah is all about miracles and celebrates a miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days when it should have lasted one. This miracle has taught me a very unique message which is that everything is possible, no matter how hard it seems! It’s such an important lesson which I teach my children during the festival as when something seems impossible, they must keep trying. Hanukkah is also a time where we gather together and share gratitude for all the blessings in our life. There’s always a lot of light, love and warmth during the joyous festival and my kids love celebrating it too.
Tell us about some popular Hanukkah traditions. Do you and your family have any of their own traditions and / or unique ways to celebrate?
During Hanukkah we light a ‘Menorah’ which is an eight branched candelabra. Every night of the festival one candle is lit from left to right until all the candles burn together on the last night. Daddy comes home early from work so we can light the candles all together as a family. We then make a blessing, sing songs, and it is customary to spin the ‘dreidel’ (a four-sided spinning top) and eat lots of chocolate coins. We exchange gifts each night of the eight-day celebration and almost every night my kids have friends over for a Hanukkah party.
What do you do in the days leading up the Hanukkah to prepare for the event?
As the festival usually falls the same month as Christmas, we have a ‘Chrismukkah’ tree at home which Adrian and Annabella love decorating with gold and silver stars of David. We believe in spirituality and love to celebrate all occasions in our family to bring lots of happiness to our surroundings whenever possible. I always teach my kids about the importance of giving to those in need, so before Hanukkah they both choose and wrap some toys, books and games to donate to other children during the holiday. Since food is a big part of the preparation (and obviously my favourite part), there’s always a messy and crazy party in the kitchen before Hanukkah with latkes and sprinkles all over the place! And you are guaranteed to find our dogs destroying all the doughnuts that we made on the floor and covered in icing sugar.
How do you dress for the occasion? Talk us through the outfits you choose for Adrian and Annabella
As the holiday lasts for eight days, you will find our family dressed in a mix of outfits every night. Some nights we literally wear our Hanukkah pyjamas and other nights we dress up more when celebrating with friends. When growing up in Israel, I always wore white during the Jewish holidays and it reminds me of peace, positivity and purity, so I love dressing my kids in white and neutral colours during Hanukkah as well. And yes, I’m aware that kids and white clothes don’t go together but celebrations are all about letting kids have fun and get messy!
Adrian and Annabella wear a selection of clothing from designer Alviero Martini
Do you involve your children in the preparations? Are there specific things they can help with?
Yes, my children love Hanukkah and it’s a very exciting festival where kids can really get involved. As we couldn’t have a party at home this year, Adrian and Annabella each had a Hanukkah celebration at school and prepared goodie bags for their friends with dreidels, games and chocolate coins. It’s so important that children learn to celebrate other religious holidays at a young age, so it was great for my kids to involve their classmates in our celebration and teach them all about the Jewish customs and traditions. They did lots of fun DIY activities and made jam filled doughnuts and Hanukkah shaped cookies for everyone. During the festival my kids also love taking turns with helping to light the Menorah. Hanukkah is also an opportunity to teach children about positive thinking, what they should be grateful for and to make them realise the everyday miracles that happen in their life too.
What foods do you cook? Do you use traditional family recipes?
One of the best things about the festival is the food as any holiday that involves carbs in our house is a winner! Hanukkah is definitely a calorific holiday and as it celebrates the miracle of the oil, there is a custom of eating fried foods such as potato latkes. It’s also the only time that we can literally eat anything deep fried in oil with zero guilt as we are basically commanded to do so! And more importantly we eat lots and lots of doughnuts (what I call serious holy carbs!). We make them filled with jam, chocolate, cheese, cream, meat, fruit, caramel - basically any filling you can image...I love getting the kids involved in the kitchen during Hanukkah as it’s a fun opportunity for me to teach them all about the different nutrients of the doughnut fillings. They also learn to appreciate and enjoy the food more when helping me bake or cook. This year I can’t wait to share my kid-friendly recipes for both sweet and savoury doughnuts. And don’t worry healthier recipes are coming next month to get the new year started off right!
All images by @ordanielletouret
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