Menorahs and Dreidels—Leading Stars of the Hanukkah Celebration
For Hanukkah, the 8 day festival of lights which begins this year on December 16, the menorah and dreidel are the leading Judaica pieces that help us celebrate this joyful holiday.
The menorah, also called chanukiah, is a 9 branch candelabra that holds the lit Hanukkah candles. We light one for each night and let the candles burn bright (just like in the song "Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah"). Starting from the right, on night #1 we light one candle. On night #2, we light 2 candles and so on. So, if you do the math, you actually need 44 candles including 8 shamases-the candle used to light the others.
After we light the menorah or anytime during Hanukkah, we gather to play driedel. The dreidel is a spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each of the 4 sides. The letters stand for the phrase “Nes gadol haya sham” which means "a great miracle happened here" (referring to the miracle of oil that lasted 8 days instead of one). Depending on which side the dreidel falls after spinning, the spinner either gains or give up pieces from the pot (usually coins or gelt). The person who wins everything is the winner.
Like all other Judaica pieces, there many designs for menorahs and dreidels and many artists have applied their unique vision on these ritual pieces. Some are very elaborate and ornate, others simple with a traditional look or modern look. Regardless of the design, as long as menorah as 9 branches and the dreidel 4 sides, they are legitimate—the real deal.