Here are some basic facts about Chanukah, regarding its history, legends, foods, and dreidel rules.
One of the first basic facts about Chanukah is that Chanukah is actually merely a story revolving around military victory and practical politics. Antiochus from Syria once ruled the Judea Jews in 168 BC and wanted every group there to become Hellenized by adopting the Greek culture. However, the Jews refused to do so and their temple was then desecrated, starting a three-year long war. The Jews that fought back, also known as the Maccabees, eventually won, however, and celebrated for eight days. This is the reason why Chanukah is an eight-day long celebration.
By today’s tradition, you need to add one candle every night to a menorah and place the candles from the right to the left, but light them from the left to the right.
While letting the candles, the more traditional blessings bless God as our king, who commands for the lights of Chanukah to be lit and who does miracles for us. There are some new sets of these blessings now, though, which are written in a humanistic manner.
To emphasize on the oil miracle story, a lot of oil-fried foods are eaten on Chanukah, most commonly latkes, potato pancakes eaten with applesauce, sour cream, ketchup, or jam. Various other well-known treats for Chanukah include jelly donuts. Gelt, or chocolate coins, are other well-known treats for this particular holiday, too, as they stand for the tradition of giving gifts.
A dreidel refers to a top with four sides, each side of which has a letter in Hebrew on it that represents a certain word. As with jelly donuts and latkes, this exists to remind us about the oil miracle legend. When playing dreidel, every person starts with several pennies, M&M’s or other candies. Every person will then put a piece in the center to make up the pot. During your turn, the dreidel has to be spun until it lands on a particular side. Whichever letter you get will determine your next step: nun means nothing, gimel means you get the whole pot, hay means you get half of the pot, and shin means you add one more to the pot.