The Romance Reviews

Thursday 10 December 2009

Happy Holidays to all & to all a good night!


A pleasant children's song often sung at this time of year goes "Chanukah, Chanukah, come light the Menorah. Let's Have a Party, we'll all dance the Hora. Gather 'round the table, we'll give you a treat, Dreidel to play with and Latke to eat…"


Dreidels, that funny little four-sided spinning top is chock full of symbolism and tradition. It's more than just the simple little games we enjoy where we have contests to see who can spin it longest, or playing for Chanukah "gelt" or goodies by letting the Dreidel decide who gets and how much. The four letters on the sides of the Dreidel are "NUN" no one wins, "GIMMEL" winner takes the pot, "HEY" the spinner gets half the pot, and "SHIN" the spinner matches the pot, or puts all he has in. The lettering on the sides of the Dreidel also refer to the phrase "Nes Gadol Hayah Sham" (a great miracle happened there) to remind us of the miracle of the oil and the victory.

During the time of Greek oppression, Jews were not allowed to study Torah, one of the commandments the Jewish people were ordained to follow. Many students of Torah would take great risks by studying passages of the Talmud and discussing Jewish laws among their fellow scholars. When the Greek soldiers would come near, the students would replace their books with the innocent "toys" now known as Dreidels so that all that would be seen was a group of fun-loving men enjoying an innocent game. A deeper meaning to the Dreidel game is that in life, like the spinning top, no one truly knows how the top will land and what fates will be dealt.


Every menorah, or Hanukiyah, is designed to hold eight flames (candles or oil) to symbolize the eight days that one day's worth of oil burned after the victory by the Maccabees. Many believe that the eight flames should be of an equal height so that no one "day" seems more important than another.

There is a ninth "flame", the Shamash. Since each of the eight flames is representative of a great miracle, their beauty and brightness is not supposed to be used for any other reason than meditation. The Shamash is the "worker" light; it is this ninth flame that can be used to light the other flames and that can illuminate the room in order to see your way around. The Shamash is set apart from the other flames, either at a different height or visibly off to the side of the Hanukiyah.


The word "Chanukah" means initiation, consecration and dedication. In referring to the story of the Maccabee's triumphant victory, it was the re-dedication of the temple after the desecration. Most homes will add and light one candle at a time each night until all eight flames are burning; there are those who believe all eight candles should be burning the first night taking away one candle until there is only one left to fully experience the full impact of the miracle.

As Menorahs are lit in Jewish homes throughout the world, the flames seem to "dance" in joy and vibrant energy. Just as the energy of each flame is "alive", so too should our lives be stirring, whether in prayer or in our relationships. Chanukah is a time to appreciate, admire and embrace our surroundings.

The CORRECT spelling of Chanukah - Hanukkah - Hanuka - is:

pronounced khan-new-kuh

Chanukah 2009 begins the evening of December 11 (25th of Kislev, 5770) when we light the first candle and continues for 8 nights and days (Jewish holidays always begin the evening before [erev] so Saturday, Dec. 12 is the first day). Candles are lit one per night and added to each subsequent night with blessings (prayers) each night.


All through our region, the following scene may well be a common one:
Mishpucah will gather together before sunset on December 11 (which also begins the Shabbos). Eema will put some schmaltz in a pan and fry up a batch of her mouth-watering latkes. Abba will say a brocheh over the chanukiah as he raises the shamash to kindle the first Hanukah licht. Tanta will lead everyone in a rousing rendition of the Ma'ot Tzur. Zeyda will hand out gelt to all the kinder. While everyone enjoys a nosh of geshmak latkes, Feyda will suggest a friendly game of Draydel. And as yung un alt enjoy, Bubbe will be exclaiming, "Oy, such naches!"

Are you fartshadikt? Biteh, read on for a glossary…

  • A bissel - A little
  • A brocheh - A blessing
  • Abba - Father
  • Biteh - Please
  • Bubbe - Grandmother
  • Chanukiah - Menorah
  • Draydel - Spinning top
  • Eema - Mother
  • Ess gezunterhait - Eat in good health
  • Fartshadikt - Confused
  • Feyda - Uncle
  • Gelt - Money
  • Geshmak - Tasty, delicious
  • Holishkes - Stuffed Cabbage
  • Kasha varnishkes - Cooked groats and noodles
  • Kinder - Children
  • Kishkeh - Stuffed derma
  • K'naidel - Matzoh balls
  • Kosher - Jewish dietary laws
  • K'velen - Beam; be delighted
  • Latkes - Fried pancakes
  • Licht - Light (ie: candle flame)
  • Lukshen - Noodles
  • Ma'ot Tzur - (song) Rock of Ages
  • Mazel Tov - Good Luck
  • Mishpucah - Extended family
  • Mitzvah - Good deed
  • Naches - Joy
  • Nosh - Snack
  • Shabbos/Shabbot - Sabbath
  • Shaineh punim - Pretty face
  • Shammes - the "worker candle" used to light other candles on a menorah
  • Schmaltz - Fat or grease
  • Taiglech - Small pieces of baked dough dipped in honey
  • Tanta - Aunt
  • Tsimmes - Sweet carrot compote
  • Yashir koach - May your strength continue
  • Yung un alt - Young and old
  • Zeyda - Grandfather


Kimberlee Williams said...

oh yes, this was great, Chelle, and now I have to dig out a recipe for latkes I used to make. Yummm! Thanks for the great posting and the shared knowledge :)

Lindsay Townsend said...

Wonderful post, Chelle! Thank you for sharing this. I know I shall look at it and read it again and again.

Jane Richardson said...

Wow, this is fascinating! Thanks for sharing it, Chelle. I use to work with a Jewish lady who'd come out with all kinds of Yiddish expressions, especially when she was annoyed or exasperated. It always sounded like THE very best way to express yourself! Is it correct to wish you 'happy Hanuka?'

Jane x

Chelle Cordero said...

Hi Kimberlee, Lindsay & Jane, Thanks for stopping by. And yes Jane, it is correct to wish someone Happy Hanukah. This is a holiday season for all of us to celebrate our triumphs and re-dedications.

Notice also that Chanukah (candles), Christmas (tree lights & Star of Bethlehem), Winter Solstice (rebirth of the sun), and Kwazaa (candles) all celebrate with lights - this is a warm season of light and joy. Happy Holidays to all.

Kaye Manro said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Chelle. It's so interesting and like Lindsay, I know I will read it over again and again.

Savanna Kougar said...

Chelle, this is best explanation I've read, so far. Thanks.
You are so right about celebrating with lights.
It is a season to bring forth light and joy.
Happy Hanukah

Chelle Cordero said...

I am so happy to share this with you. Personally I enjoy all of this holiday season - the decorations, the lights, the festivities... I especially enjoy the "ruach" (spirit)and the fervor that everyone embraces at this time of year. Banish the "bah humbugs"!

D.L. Folken said...

A man named Finite awoke and found himself in a sinkhole full of quick sand. He was sinking very slowly and knew that he would meet certain death.

A man came along who had holes in his hands. The man threw Finite a rope and told him to grab it and he would pull him to safety.

Finite looked at the holes in the man's hands and said, “Your not real.” “It is not scientifically possible for a man to live who has holes in his hands.

The man with the holes in his hands looked at the guy a little puzzled and said, “You are in a sinkhole and about to die. Your response to my help is to say I’m not real?”

Finite said, “Well, I like how warm the sand is and I really don’t want to get out. Second, I know I am having an illusion because it is not possible for a man to have holes in his hands and still help me out.” Therefore, morally I like my plight and scientifically, you don’t exist being a mere projection of my mind.

The man with the holes in his hands said, “Listen, I was sent here by my father to help people out so please let me help you! I will take you to my father’s mansion where you can enjoy life for eternity. Obviously, death was not able to hold me in the grave because the holes in my hands are proof that I overcame death. I now have the power to save you so grab the rope!”

Finite put his fingers in the ears and said, “Now I know I am hearing things because there is no such thing as eternal life…Everyone dies so I am going to take my turn and just enjoy this warm sand until the end.”

The man with the holes in his hand said, “If you won’t grab the rope, then I won’t be able to help you…please, please take the rope and I can pull you out. Have faith my friend.”

A few moments later Finite sunk into the quick sand and out of sight. Finite was surprised that he did not die as expected. He just sat there surrounded by sand, unable to move, unable to breathe, unable to talk with his fingers in his ears. Finite tried to comfort himself by thinking, “I would rather stay here for eternity than believe that the man with the holes in His hand could help me. Faith in that mirage is irrational!!

So Finite sat in the quicksand for eternity. Day in and day out for eternity Finite was always thinking about the man with the holes in his hands. He would comfort himself thinking, “It was better to not have faith than to believe something that didn’t make sense.”

The man with the holes in His hands continued to call him for the rest of eternity; however, Finite could not hear his voice because he had plugged his ears.

The Lesson

If you are not with Christ, you will be thinking about Christ for eternity anyway... so have faith.

Keena Kincaid said...

That's for the wonderful post. Growing up, my friends who celebrated Chanukah were always quick to point out they got presents eight nights instead of just one. ;-)

Happy Chanukah!

Chelle Cordero said...

ah yes, and many of my friends pointed out that there were 12 days of Christmas compared to the eight days of Chanukah! lol.

LK Hunsaker said...

I enjoyed reading this, Chelle. Back in college I took a Jewish and Christian traditions class and was charmed by many Jewish traditions.

Happy Hanukah!