Hanukkah celebrations focus on family, food, faith and fun

Holidays are a time for families, food and fun, and Jacob Ellis’s memories of Hanukkah include all of those.

“Hanukkah at home is always a fun time. One night is usually a nice meal prepared by our mom and then more latkes than we can count,” said the Aiken resident. “The tradition is to eat a bunch before dinner.”

Hanukkah begins at sundown Dec. 18 and is observed for eight days culminating Dec. 26.

It’s one of the most widely celebrated of the Jewish holidays, according to It’s also known as the Festival of Lights.

“Light comes literally, with the lighting of an additional candle each day, and metaphorically, through a newer emphasis on charitable donations and a commitment to tikkun olam during the holiday,” the website said.

Tikkun olam is Hebrew for “world repair” or social justice.

The festival’s history commemorates the victory of a small group of Jewish rebels led by Judah Maccabee over the armies of Syria more than 2,100 years ago. The Maccabees rededicated the Temple with their victory.

They found only one container of oil in the temple which should’ve only lasted a single day, but the miracle of Hanukkah is that the oil lasted eight days.

Oil is another central part of the celebration with many of the foods cooked in oil. Hanukkah favorites latkes also known as potato pancakes, and sufganiyot, which are doughnuts, are among the items on a Hanukkah table.

Jewish families use a special menorah at Hanukkah called a Hanukkiah which has space for nine candles unlike the traditional menorah with seven. The Hanukkiah’s center candle is called the shammash or helper candle.

They light a candle each night and say prayers of blessing.

Augusta Jewish Museum’s menorah from 2021. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

 Hanukkah games include spinning the dreidel — a four-sided top marked with Hebrew letters.

Ellis said in addition to playing the dreidel, his family has another game.

“Every year we try to see whose menorah’s candle will last the longest and whoever that is wins Hanukkah that night,” he said.

And Ellis has a favorite memory associated with playing Hanukkah games.

“One of the best memories is at one of our Hanukkah parties at our synagogue. A game of Hanukkah bingo got a little intense, and we jokingly told the congregants to hold their Hebrew horses or we were going to call the cops,” he said.

A few Hanukkah-related events will be happening in the Augusta area.

Chabad of Augusta will light the Nathan Katz Giant Menorah during an event from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Evans Towne Center Park.

The event will include children’s musical performances, sizzling latkes, a grand gelt drop, arts and crafts and gifts for all the children.

Also at the Augusta Jewish Museum at 525 Telfair St., a giant menorah will be lit each night beginning Sunday according to Jack Weinstein, museum board president. No ceremony will be held.

This is the second year for the lighting.

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Subscribe to the Augusta Good News newsletter here.

Cover photo courtesy Pexels. Photo credit: RODNAE Productions

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