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Understanding Hanukkah’s Significance

Understanding Hanukkah’s Significance

Understanding Hanukkah’s Significance

Remember that Hanukkah is not actually a very important holiday on the Jewish calendar. Understanding its significance means retelling the history behind it and celebrating as your family tradition dictates, while resisting the urge to treat it as a "Jewish Christmas."


  1. Read the story of the history of Hanukkah. You can find it in a book about Jewish holidays, or on a Jewish Web site.
  2. Learn why we perform certain rituals, such as the lighting of the hanukkiah to celebrate the burning of the oil for eight nights. Ask your Rabbi if there are any aspects of Hanukkah whose origin you don't understand.
  3. Sing the Hanukkah songs, including “Rock of the Ages,” and think about what the words really mean.
  4. Ask friends and family what Hanukkah means to them. Think of how its significance has changed for you since you were a child.
  5. Explain to your children what meaning Hanukkah holds for Jews. Stress the celebration of the Jews' miraculous victory over the Maccabees, rather than the Jewish celebration as a counterpart to Christmas.

Avoid trying to outdo Christmas just so your children won't feel deprived. Traditionally, Hanukkah is not about extravagant gift giving.


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