Eight fun facts about Chanukah

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    1. 44 candles
    There are at least 44 candles in each box of Chanukah candles, enough for one person to light the chanukiyah (see item six on this list) according to tradition every night. Some boxes include extra candles as they tend to break easily. Today, candles come in a variety of colors, wax types, and even scents. You can also fulfill the mitzvah of lighting the chanukiyah with oil.

    2. Holiday calories
    When you eat holiday treats fried in oil, you can’t really expect for them to be fat-free. The average 100-gram sufganiyah (doughnut) packs 400-600 calories. One potato latke has about 150 calories, svinge (a Moroccan cruller) 350-442 calories, and chocolate coins 85 calories each. Israelis devour some 24 million sufganiyot during the eight-day holiday — adding up to 10.8 billion calories.

    3. Chanukah, Hanukkah, Hannuka
    Chanukah also goes by the names of the Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication. As if multi-names weren’t enough, the holiday also has a variety of transliterated English spellings — thanks to the guttural Hebrew sound of the first letter, which cannot be rendered properly in English.

    4. Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel
    Get your spinning finger ready: It’s time to remember when the Greeks were in town and forbade Jews to learn Torah. Tradition holds that kids used to meet up in secret to learn, but if a Greek soldier happened upon their meeting they would pretend to be gambling with their dreidels.
    Israeli author/politician Avram Burg is said to have the largest dreidel collection in the world, counting more than 3 500.
    Dreidel, by the way, is a Yiddish word which comes from ‘drei’ — to turn or spin. The dreidel (a special spinning top for Chanukah) features four Hebrew letters. In Israel, the letters are Nun, Gimel, Hay and Peh. Abroad, they’re Nun, Gimel, Hay, Shin. The letters stand for the Hebrew phrase “A great miracle happened there (for those outside of Israel)/here (for those in Israel).

    5. Most popular Jewish holiday
    Though it is one of the most well-known and celebrated Jewish festivals, Chanukah is actually a more minor holiday, according to religious tradition, than Passover, Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur. The holiday is not even mentioned in the Torah.
    Some say Chanukah gained popularity in the late 1800s among American Jews because of the season in which it falls — usually around Christmastime, this year at Thanksgiving. Chanukah always begins on the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar. The corresponding Gregorian date varies.
    Others point to the fun aspect of the holiday as the reason for its popularity. Maimonides wrote that the mitzvah of lighting the chanukiyah is even more important than buying wine for Sabbath.

    6. Menorah vs. Chanukiyah
    The menorah is a seven-branched candelabra used in synagogues. The chanukiyah is a nine-branched candelabra used during Chanukah. Because the chanukiyah can also be called a Chanukah menorah, confusion often sets in.
    Tradition states that the chanukiyah should have all candles or wicks at the same level, with only the shamash — the ninth candle or wick, for lighting the other eight — a bit higher or lower.

    7. Lighting in the right direction
    GPS navigation could help when organising the chanukiyah. According to accepted rules, you should place the candles right to left to correspond with the direction in which you read the Hebrew language. But you should light the candles from left to right, giving more attention to the new candle first.

    8. Chanukah at the White House
    Today, the US president and first lady host an annual Chanukah party for hundreds of American Jewish politicians, organisation heads and school and yeshiva deans.
    The first official White House Chanukah party was held on 10 December 2001. President George W. Bush borrowed a 100-year-old chanukiyah from the Jewish Museum in New York for the event. Since then, the White House Chanukah party has been a coveted get-together.

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