8 Interesting Things You May Not Know About Hanukkah

Most of us know that Hanukkah lasts for eight nights, and during the holiday, you light the menorah, eat delicious fried latkes and spin the dreidel to win some chocolate. But there is much more to the Jewish holiday than just good food and candles—and it’s not just about getting presents all week long.

If you want to learn more about the Festival of Lights, here are eight interesting things you may not know about Hanukkah.

1. Hanukkah Isn’t A Major Jewish Holiday

In fact, it’s not even mentioned in the Torah. But because of its proximity to Christmas, Hanukkah became a widely celebrated holiday beginning in the late 1800s.

2. A Menorah Is Actually A “Hanukiah”

An actual menorah has seven placeholders all at the same height. A Hanukkiah has nine, with one at a different height.

Flickr | Scazon


3. 17.5 Million Donuts Are Eaten In Israel During Hannukah

During Hanukkah, Israelis feast on “sufganiyot”—oily jelly donuts—as the traditional holiday dessert.

Flickr | DYKT Mohigan

4. The Dreidel Was Used As A Cover-Up For Studying The Torah

Studying the Torah was outlawed in ancient Greece, so the Jewish people played with the dreidel in order to fool the Greeks if they were caught.

Flickr | Pete Prodoehl

5. Gifts Are Only Given Because It’s Close To Christmas

Gift-giving isn’t a traditional part of Hanukkah, but kids were given gelt money as an incentive to study the Torah.

Flickr | liz west

6. There Are 16 Ways To Spell Hanukkah

Since Hanukkah is transliterated from Hebrew letters, there are many different ways to spell the name of the holiday. The most common in English are “Hanukkah” or “Chanukah.”

7. There’s A Right Direction To Light The Candles

Hanukkah candles are added right to left, but lit left to right so the newest is lit first.

Flickr | Joe Goldberg

8. Hanukkah Is Celebrated At The White House

Jimmy Carter was the first president to take official notice of the holiday in 1979, and each president since has recognized Hanukkah with a special menorah-lighting ceremony.

Flickr | Elvert Barnes