8 Things You Didn't Know About Hanukkah

Ah Hanukkah. The BEST time of the year, and it’s right around the corner! We all know the meaning behind Hanukkah and why we have 8 amazing nights to celebrate. But we wanted to dig a bit deeper than Judah Maccabee’s heroic efforts and the miracle oil that was found and lasted 8 nights.

Before learning a bit more about Hanukkah, wouldn’t it be nice to have a plethora of Hanukkah apparel to choose from and wear? Dude, we’ve been bombarded with Christmas overload in every store we walk into— since October. Like, before Halloween was even here. You too? So frustrating. Well now you have your own place to shop for Hanukkah shirts, sweatshirts, kids tees, baseball tees and UGLY HANUKKAH SWEATERS.. But the best part is, you don’t have to get up.

Just CLICK HERE and see for yourself.

Oh and if you’re like us and tend to wait until the last minute to buy presents, we feel you. These shirts make awesome gifts and are super easy to pair with something. For example, you can get your sister a latke shirt and include ingredients, a small skillet and recipe and BOOM, sweet Hanukkah gift. You could also grab your little one a dinosaur dreidel shirt and throw in a dinosaur toy, some gelt and dreidels for a super fun night of the dreidel game. 

Moving on… let’s learn some Hanukkah stuff!

  1. The Dreidel Game Origins

Oh dreidel dreidel dreidel I made you out of clay and when it’s dry and ready.. oh dreidel I shall play! Did you know this game was actually inspired by a German game played at Christmas?

In the German game, N= Nichts (where you get nothing) G=Ganz (where you get everything), H=Halb (where you get half) and S=Stell ein (where you put some back in). Their spinner was known as a “Trundl” or “Torrel”

The dreidel includes 4 sides: Nun, Gimel, Hay, and Shin. Outside of Israel, these 4 letters stand for nes gadol haya sham which translates to “a great miracle happened there.” Unfortunately, studying the Torah was banned by a Syrian King in ancient times, and those caught were deeply punished. He wanted all Jewish people to worship the Greek. Some Jewish people joined the Greeks out of fear while others stayed true to their beliefs and studied in hidden places. The dreidel game was played to trick the Greeks so that our people could continue to study the Torah. Pretty sneaky of us eh? Love it.

Do you dominate at the dreidel game? Would you consider yourself undefeated? Show your opponents just how much by flaunting this.

2. Why Do Women Light the Menorah Each Night?

This one is a bit of a shocker, a little gruesome but pretty sweet and heroic. It is said that during the time of the Maccabees, a crazy badass widow named Judith entered an enemy camp and swooned a Greek army general by the name of Holofernes. She did this to avoid the inevitable siege of Jerusalem. Now, there are several explanations as to what happened next.

One explains that after a huge dinner he threw in her honor, he drank a little too much and passed out. Another explains that she fed him an intoxicating dairy meal (which we’ll talk more about in #5) and helped quench his thirst with large amounts of wine so he’d pass out.

Regardless of which is true, once Holofernes passed out, she cut off his head and brought it back to her village!


The act of decapitating this army general, carried out by a woman, scared Holofernes’ army enough to run away from the Maccabees. That, my friends, is why women light the candles, to remember and celebrate Judith’s courageous act! Pretty cool..

3. How Big Is The Biggest Menorah In The World?

Well, this is pretty amazing. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, the largest Menorah in the world was designed by Yaacov Agam and is 32 feet tall and 28 feet wide and weighs a whopping 4,000 pounds! If you want to go visit this beauty, it’s located in New York City.

4. Hanukkah Is NOT Mentioned In The Bible

Say what? Yup. Hanukkah is the only Jewish holiday not mentioned in the 24 Books of the bible.

5. Latkes and Sufganiyah Are Chanukah Staples.. But So Is Cheese.

We eat delicious [and unhealthy] fried foods on Chanukah to remember the oil that miraculously

lasted 8 days and nights, instead of 24 hours. But Cheese? Where does cheese fit into this tradition?

Well, if you scroll back up to #2 we talked about the courageous and heroic Judith. She was said to have fed the Greek army general an intoxicating dairy meal in order to cut off his head and save her village.

Eating cheese pancakes is purely to honor Judith and her fearless decision to kill the enemy. Somewhere along the way, cheese pancakes switched to potato pancakes, but that’s alright. Do us favor, whether you decide to make cheese or potato pancakes this Chanukah, think about Judith and how you can take her courageous act into your own life. Oh, and if you LOVE latkes as much as we do, you have to check out our favorite latke shirt.

6. There are 16 ways to spell Hanukkah

  1. Hanukkah
  2. Channukkah
  3. Chanukah
  4. Hanukah
  5. Hannukah
  6. Hannukka
  7. Chanuka
  8. Chanukkah
  9. Hanuka
  10. Xanuka (weird!)
  11. Channukah
  12. Chanukka
  13. Channuka
  14. Hanukka
  15. Hannuka
  16. Hanukkah

Hanukkah is amazing isn’t it? It really is the best holiday ever. Also, you’ll notice once out and about, people will start wishing you a Happy Hanukkah instead of Merry Christmas. Especially at the checkout lines at the grocery store. SCORE.

7. Healthy Latkes?

Yes, there are healthy versions of the delicious and traditional latke. Now, keep in mind we fry latkes in memory of the purest olive oil that latest 8 days instead of 1. However, you may want to skip the frying and keep the tradition alive with these healthy alternatives. Check out all the recipes here

  1. Baked Latkes with Beet and Avocado Salad
  2. Baked Butternut Squash, Sage and Manchebo Latkes
  3. Baked Scallion-Ginger Latkes
  4. Turmeric Zucchini and Potato Fritters
  5. Cauliflower and Spinach Baked Latkes
  6. Sweet Potato Kale Latkes
  7. Potato and Parsnip Latkes

If none of the above sound good, maybe these will get your glands to water

Oh.. and your latkes will taste better if you’re rocking an awesome latke shirt while cooking. It’s a fact ;)

8. Traditionally, Gifts Were NOT A Part of Hanukkah

Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s true. Gifts were not always a part of the celebration of Hanukkah. However, gelt was given to kids. Some parents actually stick to the tradition and instead of gifts, give their children money for Hanukkah today. Interestingly enough, gifts were only exchanged during Purim (BOOO Haman). It is said that gift giving for Hanukkah started in the 1950’s, but hey we’re not complaining.

And there you have it. 8 Hanukkah things you may not have already known. Be sure to check out Jewbees if you haven’t already and take a minute to think about how lucky you are to be different. Happy early Hanukkah to you and your family. May your holiday be as bright as a fully lit menorah :)

Written By:

The Jewbees Team 

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