Students celebrate Hanukkah with families


Olga Murdakhaev

Senior Alena Murdakhaev helps her family decorate their living room for the holiday.

Genny Kootsouradis, Staff Writer

The Jewish holiday Hanukkah began on Sunday evening and continued all week, as students and their families have celebrated with their different holiday traditions.

Senior Alena Murdakhaev not only celebrates but also enjoys explaining the history of Hanukkah. She said, “We defeated our oppressors, the Greeks, and lit a menorah in the desecrated temple in order to rebuild it. The oil used should have only lasted one day but lasted eight, which is why we light an additional candle each night to count the days it lasts.”

Besides the lighting of the menorah, there are many other holiday traditions that are created by families just for fun. Murdakhaev said, “A couple years ago my sibling gave me a dancing dog dressed in a Hanukkah costume and it sings, so we play that every night.”

Junior Julia Penkhasov likes many of the traditional foods eaten on this holiday. She said, “Some foods we make during Hanukkah are latkes, which are similar to hashbrowns, and also sufganiyot, which are basically donuts. These foods are both fried in oil and during Hanukkah, it’s customary to fry food in oil because of the oil miracle.”

Senior Jillian Harris also incorporates food into her family’s celebration, but she does it in a different way than Penkhasov. Harris said, “On any one of the eight nights my family isn’t busy, we all get together and eat lots of take-out from Jack’s Deli, our favorite Jewish Deli style restaurant, which usually includes latke mix to make them ourselves, matzah ball soup, corn beef, and jelly donuts.”

Similar to Christmas, some families also exchange gifts during Hanukkah. Murdakhaev said, “My family only does it on the first night, but I know of a family that gives little hints the first seven nights as to what the big gift will be on the last night.”

According to Penkhasov, giving gifts is more of an American tradition which probably started due to the fact that Hanukkah is celebrated around Christmas. She said, “In Israel and other countries, they don’t get gifts. Hanukkah isn’t the biggest or most important Jewish holiday, so it isn’t a tradition to receive gifts.”

Penkhasov and her family also attend special Hanukkah services at their temple. She said, “At Hanukkah services, we say and sing prayers, light candles, and we also talk about the origin of Hanukkah. Then we have dinner with traditional Hanukkah foods.”

Most families only decorate their houses with a menorah for the holiday, but Murdakhaev’s family likes to go all out. She said, “We put up Menorahs, a Happy Hanukkah banner over the window, tiny snowmen, penguins, and gnomes. Hanukkah is actually the holiday we decorate most for because you can pretty much do anything wintery.”

The celebration of Hanukkah officially ends the evening of Dec. 6. Harris said, “I hope everyone who celebrates has a safe and Happy Hanukkah season!”