Chanukah or Hannukah? A few facts about the Holiday of Lights...
Chanukah or Hannukah? There's only one way to spell Hanukkah. Unfortunately, it's in Hebrew. When translated to English, the word becomes trickier to express. There's actually no way to spell the guttural "hecht" sound used in the traditional Hebrew pronunciation; Ch and H are the closest we can get. And then there's the issue with the double k's, seemingly added to give the final syllable a little more oomph. The phrase can be spelled Hanukkah, Chanukah, Chanukkah or Hanukah.
Menorah or Hanukkiah? Lighting a special, nine-branched candelabrum is the main ritual on Hanukkah. Most people, including many Jews, incorrectly refer to this as a menorah, when in fact the correct name for the candleholder is Hanukkiah or Hanukkah menorah. A menorah, which has only seven candleholders, was the lamp used in the ancient holy temple in Jerusalem, now a symbol of Judaism and an emblem of Israel. A Hanukkiah, however, has nine candlesticks, one for each night of Hanukkah and an extra one to light the others. According to strict Jewish law, a Hanukkiah should have eight candleholders of the same height and a ninth branch that is set apart from the rest. Olive oil was traditionally used to light the Hannukiah, later replaced by candles that are inserted incrementally each night from right to left, but lit from left to right.
It's latkes for us The most popular way to prepare Hanukkah dishes is to fry them in oil — an homage to the miracle that inspired the annual celebration. The holiday's culinary mainstays are potato pancakes (latkes) served with applesauce and sour cream, and jelly doughnuts known as sufganiyot. But regional differences have introduced a variety of deliciously fried foods: Jews in Greece eat deep-fried dough soaked in honey, known as loukoumades; Russian revelers cook buckwheat flapjacks; and in Spain the observant fry up fritters called bunuelos in schmaltz (goose fat). One enterprising company in Israel has even created a doughnut injected with vodka that contains as much alcohol as a glass of beer.
Playing Dreidel The dreidel — a four-sided spinning top — has different Hebrew letters on each side: nun, gimel, hay and shin. In Hebrew, the letters form the initials of the message, "A great miracle happened there" (referring Hanukkah's everlasting oil). To play the dreidel game, players start out with the same amount of money (or candy) and they lose or gain depending on which letter turns up when they spin the top. Believe it or not, there is a Major League Dreidel compeitition. This year it took place in a bar in Austsin Texas. And if you don't believe me check out their FaceBook page!
Thanks and credit to Time Magazine December 2011 for these wonderful tidbits and to these authors: Tamara Weston, M.J. Stephey & Claire Suddath