What is Hanukkah all about??

We have been counting down days, hours and minutes, – and here we are! It is Hanukkah! The house is all decorated. The gifts are wrapped. The cookies are baked. The fridge is filled to the rim with all kinds of goodies. Life is really, really good.

Hanukkah gifts

I thought that maybe I would take this opportunity to explain the basics of what we are celebrating in Hanukkah, for those who are not as familiar with it. It will not cover everything, of course, as that is impossible in a little blog post. 🙂

Hanukkah cookies

The name “Hanukkah” means “Dedication”, and this refers to the rededication of the Temple. The Greeks had occupied the land of Israel, and forbid anything that had to do with Jewish faith and tradition. They even took over the temple and made it unclean in all kinds of different ways.

Hanukkah cookies

One of the saddest things was that there were Jews who left their faith and people, to join the Greeks and their ways. The Jews who stayed faithful to their Jewish faith and the God of Israel, were the Maccabees. They kept on living faithful Jewish lives in spite of the danger this put them under.

Wrapping Hanukkah gifts

Wrapping Hanukkah gifts

So there was this war going on between the Greeks and the Maccabees. And at one point the Maccabees, lead by Judah the Maccabee and his brothers, were able to recapture the Temple. A newer tradition tells that in the process of cleansing and dedication of the Temple, it was very important to light the Menorah, which of course was lit by oil. They only found a small jar of oil, enough for only one day. But this is where God did yet another miracle; the oil lasted for eight whole days! Enough time to bring new oil.

Hanukkah candles

So the Maccabees were able to light the Menorah and rededicate the Temple, – and they stayed a separate Jewish people, and did not all become part of the Greek occupiers. This is certainly worth celebrating!!

Hanukkah gifts

May we always stay faithful to God and His call to us! And, thinking of the fact that God has said that He will dwell in us, we are in a sense His temple, – let us take this opportunity and rededicate ourselves to Him!

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Hand dipped Hanukkah-candles.

Here in Israel there are two categories of Hanukkah candles for sale. There are the regular ones. And there are the fancy hand dipped ones. The latter are many times more expensive than the first, so when we take into account the amount of candles needed to light all of our hanukkiot, it is not a difficult choice at all. We buy the regular ones.

hand dipped candles

Then last year, when we after Hanukkah made candles of leftover wax from old candles, I got the idea that we could hand dip our Hanukkah candles by ourselves! So, yesterday was the day. We were going to have our annual candle-making, and boy, did it become a PRODUCTION!!

hand dipped candles

After having worked on it for about five hours (!), I did the math, and realized that I had hand-dipped close to seven hundred candles!!!

dipping candles

The children were excited to be part of it in the beginning. Our girl left the project early on, as she didn’t like how hot it was and all of that. Our boy stayed with it for a bit longer, because he was very excited to make special Thanksgiving – Hanukkah – candles. This is the first time in history that those two holidays come at the same time, so it is a pretty big thing. We have fall-colored candles and even pumpkin-pie-scented Hanukkah-candles (hard to beat, huh?).

dipping candles

I am very happy with the result of our candle-dipping, and think it was all worth it, even though it did take a loooong time. We will have very special and unique hanukkah-candles for this holiday (or rather; these holidays!).

hand dipped candles

The idea is very simple really. You start by melting some wax in some empty cans in a pot of boiling water. We had some wax from old candles, but you could of course just take some hanukkah-candles.

candle dipping

Once it is melted, you dip your candle in it, and get this nice “fancy” look of a candle with two different colors. It takes them a moment to dry, and I quickly realized that it would take waaaaayy to long to stand around and hold each candle until it had dried, so I used a hanukkiah as a “drying rack”…

hand dipped candles

Also, – since I was making such a huge amount, I had to keep on returning the can of wax to the pot of boiling water for the wax to stay melted enough.

I admit, it was a mess to clean up from afterwards… But we might as well just get used to cleaning a lot of wax as there will be plenty of it during Hanukkah…. And again, – it was so worth it! Our candles are so beautiful. And they smell so good!

hand dipped candles

And, as with anything homemade, – they are all different! Each one unique and one of a kind.

hand dipped hanukkah candlesI like to think of the hanukkah-candles as symbolizing people. All of us different, unique, one of a kind. All of us lit by the Shamash, the Servant Candle, together making a bright light that helps spread warmth and remove darkness.

Homemade edible dreidels

We have been talking about this craft for a little while, and decided that Friday would be a good day for a this special one. So finally, – we made edible sevivonim / dreidels for Hanukkah. (*Who knows if there will be any left by the time Hanukkah comes around… oh, well, then there will be other goodies!)

edible dreidels

Here is what you need:

ingredients for edible dreidels

Marshmallows, Pretzel sticks and Hershey kisses. (And Nutella, which we soon found out by experience.)

You make a hole in the Marshmallow, which you stick the Pretzel through.

making edible dreidels

The idea was that you were going to make a whole in the chocolate too, and stick the pretzel into that. But that did not work. (We had to suffer through eating broken chocolates and pretzels as we learnt this the hard way. ;-)) So, we used “glue” instead (glue = Nutella or Peanutbutter or something like that).

making edible dreidels

This worked very well, and we were able to finish the project really fast.

edible dreidels

We also decorated for Hanukkah on Friday, which is not a minimalistic project in this home…

hanukkah decorations

Homemade Hanukkiot

Our Hanukkah-craft-station is definitely being actively used this week as well. And now we have advanced to making Hanukkiot! This is something we do every year, and we keep them all, – so I admit it, we have quite a few.

making hanukkiot

We go out and buy what is needed for this on rosh chodesh Kislev, because the selection in the store is best at that time. But then we keep it until the week before Hanukkah, – and yes, the excitement builds up… -Imma, when are we going to make the hanukkiot??

making hanukkiot

It is really very easy to make a hanukkiah. You just need some sort of base, which you decorate however you choose, and then glue some type of candle-holders to. Our boy will normally choose whatever seems the biggest or longest or something like that. And he likes the jar-theme, reminding us of the fact that it was the jar of oil that was found in the temple, that was used for the miracle. (*He also shares his name with the Maccabee-brother who found this jar of oil…)

making hanukkiotOur girl will normally choose whatever is shiny or glittery… and if that could be combined with pink and purple, then it is just perfect! 😉

making hanukkiot

This year she made a pretty creative one though! She made an aquarium-hanukkiah! It has a square-flask-base, which we filled with water and small plastic fishes. She painted the back of it blue, and decorated other parts of it with shiny “diamonds”…

homemade hanukkiah

Here is the final result. Well, not quite final. Afterwards she found some other small white marbles that she wants to add to it. So I guess it is one of those that will keep changing as we go along…

homemade hanukkiah

And here is the jar-one. He painted the inside of all the small glass ones, so they turned out very nice and colorful, don’t you think? We were not quite sure how to fit one of the little things that actually holds the candle on top of the big jar. But then he saw one of the many CDs we have lying around from our dreidel-making project, and just cut a piece of a CD to glue on top of the big jar! Good to have creative solutions. 🙂

And now our home is enriched with two new hanukkiot…

homemade hanukkiot

And also with more fun memories making them! 🙂

homemade hanukkiot

A Pre Hanukkah Party

Hanukkah is in the air. There is no denying it. We are now only, let me check, – 6 days, 20 hours and 54 minutes away from Hanukkah! I love seeing the decorations and Hanukkiot popping up all over Jerusalem!

Hanukkah is in the airAnd here at home we actually had a little bit of a taste of Hanukkah last night with my parents, because they left early this morning. We have already been playing with the sevivonim (dreidels) for a while.

dreidel gameAnd we have tasted the sufganiot (doughnuts) already. But yesterday we went to the top of the line place, to get the very best for bestemor and bestefar before they had to leave.

getting sufganiot at roladinThey really do have a great selection. I went for an oreo-cream-filled one this time. Yum!!

sufganiot from roladinDon’t tell anyone, – but we even lit the hanukkiot…!! It was like it was the first night already, – except for the blessings. And what did we do as the candles were burning? Yes, we let our prince choose, – and the decision came easily: – We played Monopoly! And guess who won?? The prince himself. It was a good night in every way! hanukkah monopoly nightWe have so enjoyed having the Norwegian grandparents here with us. They really know how to spend good quality time with the children. I have totally lost count on how many games they played together when they were here, – and they even read several long chapter-books together. One of them twice!

reading with bestemor

Now we just spoke with them on the phone, and they have arrived safely back home in Norway. Surreal how fast one travels. It is sad to think of the long distance. I wish it would be easier to pop by each other’s homes and stuff. But really, I am so thankful that my parents come to visit as often as they do, and that we get to spend summers in Norway. We get a lot of time together, and the children and them have established a wonderful relationship, for which I am truly grateful.

Pumpkin soup

November is here, and that means majoring on pumpkins, doesn’t it? I did not grow up eating a lot of pumpkins, so the pumpkin pies I make mostly for my American husband and for our son who also loves this. Pumpkin-soup on the other hand, is something my tastebuds can share a love for.

butternut squash

Last week I made this soup for our weekly Thursday Torah-study group. And afterwards I have been asked for the recipe, so I thought I might as well write it here on the blog. As with many of the things that I make, it is really simple and easy. The secret behind its wonderful taste, is a lot of pumpkin! Or a lot of butternut squash, or a mixture of the two, which is what I did the other day.

butternut squash

I start by cutting a couple of onions into relatively small pieces, and frying them in butter over medium heat, so that the onion pieces turn shiny, but not brown. Meanwhile I prepare the pumpkin or squash, – peal, remove seeds and cut into quite big cubes. Those pieces I throw on top of the onions, and then I just barely cover it all with water. The less water, the thicker soup, naturally. At this point I add salt, pepper and bullion, quite a bit of it to add good flavor.

Pumpkin soup

You cook it until the pumpkin pieces are soft, and if there is time, you let it cool slightly before mushing it with a mixer of some sort. I prefer a stick mixer, but a regular mixer works too, or even a food processor, but it is a mess having to transfer the whole thing. When it has all turned into soup, I add cream, which of course makes the flavor all the creamier and yummier (*this is a step that can be skipped and if you do oil instead of butter in the beginning, you have a parve soup). At the end you taste it and add spice to make it just the way you want it.

pumpkin soup

We had leftover soup for lunch today, which was perfect for our prince who was home from school because he was not feeling well. I am hoping we are all just getting mild cases of colds and flus now in the beginning of the season, so to speak, and that this will make us immune for the rest of the winter. One can always hope. And plenty of soup and good rest should help it too!

Hanukkah is coming…!

hanukkah is coming

We are less than two weeks away from Hanukkah, believe it or not! And in spite of the fact that the holiday lasts for eight whole days and all of that, we still feel that there is so much to enjoy that even eight days is not enough… So we claim the whole month of Kislev as our Hanukkah-month!

playing with sevivonim

We have brought out our Hanukkah-dreidels or sevivonim as we call them in Hebrew. We have collected them throughout the years, so we have quite a few, – and we love them all! The kids play with them in all sorts of ways. They sort them into groups and make families of them. They see how long they can get them to spin. They see how many they can get to go at the same time. They spin them upside down! And then there is the traditional dreidel-game of course. More about that in another post.

craft making

This week we also set up a permanent Hanukkah-craft-station on our dining room table. We anyway eat most of our meals during the week on our kitchen-bar, so it was good to get some more use out of our dining room table, don’t you think?

craft station

Until now we have mostly focused on window-decorations and dreidel-making-crafts. It is so much fun! Even I really enjoy it! Which makes the kids have a blast! (They are like: “Abba, – you are missing out!!!)

dreidel making

The dreidels we have made from CDs that we decorate with glas-decor-paint and then glue a big marble to it with hot glue. So easy! We have practically been mass-producing them! 🙂

dreidel making

We have moved our garden bench (which I made from a baby bed) inside for the winter (in hope of lots of rain outside). Now we have it right alongside our dining room table, which I also turned around to face the window. Nice with a little bit of a change and new look without having to actually buy anything!

I like the fact that it gives a more friendly and less formal look. It sort of invites to a fun game night, or just relaxed meals with family and friends. Or a craft station, like we have had this week!

shabbat table

And now the craft station is tidied away for the coming of Shabbat. We are looking forward to sitting around the table with grandparents from both sides tonight, and also a very sweet soldier who we count as part of our family.

shabbat table

Ok, I have to go stick the challot in the oven. Shabbat shalom from Jerusalem to you all!