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This week marks the beginning of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, for the Jewish people. The history behind this joyous holiday lies within the miracle of the Maccabees and God’s divine intervention. When the Grecian armies destroyed the Second Temple, Jewish armies rose and defeated their persecutors. However, when rededicating the desecrated temple to the Jewish faith, the Maccabees discovered there was only enough oil to last a single night. Nevertheless, God provided a great miracle for the Jewish people. He allowed the small amount of oil to last an astonishing 8 nights.
When bringing Hanukkah’s historical significance into our modern day celebrations, there are countless ways to bring the essence of the miracle of light into your home and heart. More specifically, we have compiled a list for “8 Crazy Nights” of Hanukkah in Pittsburgh to encourage even those who are not Jewish, to celebrate in the fun-loving and positive nature of this holiday.
1. Celebrate with Doughnuts!
One of the most popular foods eaten during Hanukkah is sufganiot, or doughnuts. Because the story of Hanukkah revolves around oil, Jewish people love to eat foods prepared in oil during this time- such as these sweet treats. To celebrate Hanukkah Pittsburgh-Style, try visiting some of our top-notch bakeshops and pick up a dozen doughnuts. To learn more about Pittsburgh sweet shops, read our “Best Bakeries” article.
Hanukkah represents a time of overcoming great adversity and expressing gratefulness for all that God has provided for you. With that in mind, one of the best ways to celebrate is to give back and help those in need. There are countless charities and volunteer opportunities to be a part of in the Pittsburgh region.
3. Stroll Through the Nationality Rooms
While the grandeur of the Nationality Rooms is appreciated year-round, the additional touches of beauty during the winter season makes for an unforgettable holiday outing for the whole family. Visit the miniature nativity scene (or creche) gingerly arranged in the France room. Take a look at the jolly, garland clad Germany room too! These are sure to please even the biggest Grinch. Most importantly, the Israel room encompasses the beauty and light of Hanukkah with its deep blue and silver decorations- including a menorah and dreidels!
4. Cook Jewish Foods
Another iconic food item found on the Hanukkah dinner table is the latke- also known as the potato pancake. Becuase the latke is prepared in oil, it once again hearkens back to the oil that miraculously sustained the temple’s’ light for 8 nights. So grab a big bag of potatoes and as many helpers as possible to start peeling and prepping for this delicious traditional food.
5. Spend Time with Family and Friends
The spirit of Hanukkah lies within tradition, the most important being spending time with family. During the years in which the Grecians barred Jews from practicing their faith, spending time together and preserving the tenants of Judaism remained the top priority. During the eight nights of Hanukkah, be sure to reach out to family and friends. Uphold your most cherished holiday values and traditions.
6. Light the Menorah
During Hanukkah, Jewish families light the menorah. A single candle is lit for each of the eight nights to represent the number of days that God sustained the Jewish people with his miraculous oil and light. While menorahs are not as easily spotted in Pittsburgh as a Christmas tree, menorahs make their appearance in various public places around the city. If you have a menorah of your own, be sure to light it each night. And for those who do not celebrate Hanukkah, but are interested in participating, light a candle and spread some Hanukkah light of your very own!
7. Hanukkah Sing Along!
Everyone knows the countless Christmas classics like “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” but very few people outside the Jewish community know songs for Hanukkah. Do a quick search on Youtube for “Dreidel, Dreidel” and “Oh Hanukkah” to find the iconic Hanukkah carols.
8. Play Dreidel
A classic Hanukkah game, dreidel is a wonderful game to play with the whole family. Spin the dreidel (a four-sided top with symbols on each side) and see which lucky player wins the most chocolate coins!