Hanukkah: History & Traditions

Hanukkah

Image / Copyright © Compass Rose Benefits Group.


Hanukkah, or Chanukah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, is the eight-day and eight-night festival of light.  The Jewish holiday celebrates a miracle that symbolizes faith and never losing hope.  Hanukkah begins at sundown today, December 16th and ends on Wednesday, December 24th.

In preparation of Hanukkah, let’s chat and chew about its history and traditions.

THE HISTORY: WITNESSING A MIRACLE

Hanukkah commemorates the successful rebellion of the Jewish freedom fighters called the Maccabees against the Greeks in the Maccabean War. (More) After their victory, a ritual cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple took place.

After restoring the Holy Temple, only enough consecrated oil was found to keep the menorah’s candles burning for one-day; yet, the flames remained lit for eight nights!  This event is why Hanukkah is referred to as the Feast of Lights or Festival of Lights.

HANUKKAH TRADITIONS

  1. Light the Menorah: The Menorah—a candelabrum that holds nine candles—is the centerpiece of the Hanukkah celebration.  Eight of the candles symbolize the number of days the oil lasted, which are placed in the Menorah right to left, BUT lit left to right.  The ninth candle, known as the Shamash, is used to help light the other candles. Families light one new candle every day after sundown during the eight days Hanukkah, while saying prayers and singing songs.
  1. Holiday Songs: Speaking of singing, Hanukkah has its own carols that are sung around the Menorah.  Songs are about a variety of things—topics range from the glory of God and the ancient Temple of the Jews, to the iconic dreidel. See a list of songs here.
  1. Tasty Foods: As with most holidays, Hanukkah comes with traditional foods that are always served—but you don’t have to celebrate Hanukkah to enjoy them!  If you’re looking for some new twists on traditional foods, see below for some yummy, HEALTHIER, Hanukkah recipes to try in the coming days.
  1. Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel: Playing with dreidels, or spinning tops, is customary during the holiday.   Sometimes bets will be placed on which side of the dreidel will fall face up.  The story goes “that Jews played with the dreidel in order to fool the Greeks if they were caught studying Torah, which had been outlawed.” (More)  The characters carved into the four sides of the dreidel are the letters nun, gimmel, hey, and shin, which represent nes gabol haya sham­, or “a great miracle happened there.”
  1. Gold Coins: Better Homes and Gardens describes that the tradition of handing out gelt—the Yiddish word for “money”—dates back to 17th century Poland.  It’s suggested that the gesture relates back to after the Maccabean revolt—the only time Jews were historically free to mint their own coins, in their own state. (More)

If you have some recipes or family traditions of your own, please feel free to share with us!  In the meantime, check out our Pinterest board, where you’ll find fun DIY Hanukkah-inspired activities and more recipes to enjoy this holiday season!

Apple of my eye.

apple


An apple a day keeps the doctor away!  We’ve all heard it before, but are we taking this advice seriously?  While National Eat an Apple Day seems silly—dedicating an entire day to eating an apple—the facts are in and apples have earned a day in the spotlight.

So, let’s chat and chew about the health benefits of apples!

Despite what Snow White might have to say about apples, they are one of the healthiest foods a person can eat. Laura Flores, a San Diego-based nutritionist said, “Regular intake of apples has been shown to have cardiovascular benefits. [This is due to] two properties of apples: the fiber that they contain and the Polyphemus that are found in high amounts.” (more) Apples are not only high in fiber and Vitamin C, they are also low in calories, have only a hint of sodium, and no fat or cholesterol.  No wonder EACH American eats roughly 19 pounds of apples every year!

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) isn’t shy about their love for fruits and vegetables either.  Studies show that apples have powerful antioxidants, ranking them a top seed amongst all fruits for lowering your risk of cancer.  Best Health Magazine reports that scientists from the American Association for Cancer Research agree “the consumption of flavonol-rich apples could help reduce your risk of developing pancreatic cancer by up to 23 percent.”

Apples provide many other health benefits, including:

  • Healthier Teeth: Eating apples produces saliva in your mouth, which reduces tooth decay by lowering bacteria levels.
  • Decreased risk of Alzheimer’s: Research showed that drinking apple juice could help fight against Alzheimer’s and the effects aging has on the brain.
  • Lowered risk of diabetes: Women who eat at least one apple a day are 28 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who don’t eat apples. Apples are full of soluble fiber, which is key to reducing changes in blood sugar levels.
  • Healthy Heart: A large amount of research connects high soluble fiber consumption with a slower buildup of cholesterol-rich plaque in your arteries, which could lead to coronary artery disease.

The list goes on, proving that apples are a fruit to be reckoned with!  Between weight control, detoxing your liver, and lowering your risk for cataracts, it seems like apples can do it all.  So, next time you reach for a fruit, pick your poison carefully. Whether you’re a Granny Smith, Red, or Gold Delicious fan, any apple will lead to a happy ending!

Holy Guacamole!

In celebration of National Guacamole Day, I enlisted help from one of CRBG’s very own employees—her guacamole recipe is a huge hit around the office!  Irma, in our accounting department, was kind enough to share her recipe with us below:

Guacamole Recipe:

  • 3 avocados
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 roma (plum) tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 key lime
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Black pepper
  • Salt or garlic salt
  • Splash of milk (optional)

Guacamole_Recipe

To start, prepare your tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and garlic, so you can easily mix them in with the avocado.

guacamole-cutting-ingredients

In a medium mixing bowl, mash avocados to chunky consistency. Add splash of milk while mashing* (optional). Mix-in chopped onions, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro. Then squeeze lime juice. Add black pepper and salt.

Guacamole3

Once you’ve mixed together your ingredients to your satisfaction, either serve immediately or store in the fridge for an hour. Quick tip: squeeze lime juice on your guacamole and cover with foil before placing in the fridge—this will help preserve it’s freshness.

Guacamole2

Although guacamole is one of my favorite things to eat, I’ve never made it before—I was surprised by how easy it was to whip up! Despite having to fight with a few slightly unripened avocados, I was happy with the outcome!

BONUS: Guacamole’s main ingredient is also one of the healthiest foods you can eat: avocado.  There are a wide-range of health benefits for which avocados take the cake, including anti-inflammatory benefits, cardiovascular health benefits, regulation of blood sugar, anti-cancer benefits, and more! Check out this infographic for more information on what avocados are good for! 

Have a guacamole recipe of your own? Feel free to share with us on our social media channels or try making some using the recipe above!

East Coast Adventures


Over the past couple of weekends, I’ve had the sincere pleasure of visiting two great vacation destinations—Cape Cod, MA and Nashville, TN. Together, they both turned out to be great weekend getaway locations; however, they offer far different atmospheres for the traveling spirit. Continue reading