Spinning The Dreidel: Getting Into The Hanukkah Spirit


Ava Stuzin

The light of the menorah symbolizes the days the temple lantern was lit.

Ava Stuzin, Multimedia Photo Editor

Beginning on Nov. 28 and ending on Dec. 6, Jewish people all over the world observe Hanukkah for eight nights. Otherwise known as the  “Festival of Lights,” Jewish people light the menorah each night, eat their favorite Jewish foods and spend time with their families in celebration. 

The Hebrew calendar is based on the lunar cycles, changing the dates of Jewish holidays from year to year. For this reason, the beginning of Hanukkah can range from late November to late December. 

Hanukkah commemorates the events in Judea more than 2,000 years ago when the Syrian King Antiochus demanded that the Jews abandon the Torah and instead worship the Greek gods. This action provoked Judas Maccabeus to lead a rebellion, otherwise known as the Maccabean revolt. Despite their small group, the army of Jews won and reclaimed the holy temple in Jerusalem. In an eight-day celebration, the “Maccabees” cleansed and rededicated the temple. To rededicate the temple, they needed oil to light the menorah, but there was only enough oil to keep the flames burning for one night. However, in a miraculous turn of fate, the oil lasted for eight days.

On each night of Hanukkah, a candle is lit on the menorah to symbolize the days the temple lantern was lit. The shamash — a helper candle — is used to light the others. The menorah holds nine candles, which are lit from the newest candles on the left to the oldest on the right.

Celebrating Hanukkah looks different for all families. Some may go all out and have a big dinner party and play the dreidel and trade gelt while others may have a smaller, more intimate get-together and say Hanukkah prayers.

“Every night of the eight days I light the candles with my family and always on one night I go celebrate with my extended family and have a big dinner,” Miami Palmetto Senior High senior and Jewish Student Union President Brooke Young said.

Common Hanukkah traditions include trading gelt, playing the dreidel and exchanging gifts. All of these special customs make Hanukkah more memorable and pleasurable.

“I love eating latkes and applesauce with my family while we play the dreidel with my little cousins,” Miami Palmetto Senior High freshman Brooke Wilensky said.

During this special season, it is important to make sure everyone can celebrate, including the less fortunate. At Palmetto, the Jewish Student Union hosted a gift drive in partnership with the Jewish Adoption and Family Care Options and donated gifts to children whose loved ones are unable to buy them Hanukkah presents.

Due to COVID-19 last year, most families were unable to get together and celebrate traditionally. While some Zoomed in, this year’s celebration is especially memorable, as it is the first Hanukkah that some families have had in-person in over a year.

“This year I am getting together with all of my family and exchanging gifts,” Wilensky said. “Fortunately, last year I was still able to celebrate safely outdoors on my cousin’s tennis court with my family socially distanced at separate tables.”

While Hanukkah is only eight days, many Palmetto students make efforts to continue embracing their lifestyle and commemorating their background by enrolling in Jewish groups such as BBYO, BAFTY and Jewish-oriented clubs at Palmetto.

“Being a part of JSU is a big part of my life because I get to spread my culture around my school even to those who are not Jewish; it’s more about spreading awareness of events circling around Judaism,” Young said.