SOMERVILLE, NJ - Although Hanukkah, "The Festival of Lights," is considered a “minor” Jewish holiday, it is a popular celebration among Jewish families across America.
According to ReformJudaism.org, when the Maccabees entered the Temple in Jerusalem to reclaim it from the Greeks, they immediately re-lit the ner tamid (eternal light), which burned constantly in the Temple. However, they found a single jar of oil sufficient for only one day. Miraculously, it lasted for eight days.
In commemoration of this miracle, Jews light the menorah for the eight nights of Hanukkah. Another popular symbol is the dreidel, a four-sided spinning top that is played with as a gambling toy. Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), ש (Shin). Together these letters form an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, which means "a great miracle happened there"). In the game, a player spins the dreidel
If נ (nun) faces up, the player does nothing.
If ג (gimel) faces up, the player gets all the chocolate gelt (Hannukah money) in the pot.
If ה (hei) faces up, the player gets half of the gelt.
If ש (shin) faces up, the player adds to the pot
While it is not one of Judaism's most solemn occasions, Hanukkah has grown in importance in the U.S. as a reinforcement of Jewish cultural identity during the "holiday season." Americans outside the Jewish community have become more familiar with the celebration thanks to Adam Sandler's comical "Hanukkah Song" that centers on the plight of Jewish children who feel alienated during the Christmas season.