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Hanukkah: Celebrate the Festival of Lights!

Hanukkah is not one of the most important holidays in Judaism. But it’s certainly the most well-known.

Hanukkah, which begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar (which happens to fall on Dec. 18 this year), is an eight-day celebration.

Most gentiles (or non Jews) know Hanukkah as the story of the miracle of the oil. That is, as the story goes, one container of usable oil ended up lasting eight nights.

But there’s more to the celebration.

Hanukkah also celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. As the story goes, the Seleucids desecrated the Second Temple. A group known as the Maccabees eventually won in what is known as the Maccabean Revolt.

The word “Hanukkah” is rooted in the Hebrew word for “dedication.”

Hanukkah tradition: Lighting candles

There is really only one long-standing tradition for Hanukkah: Light candles.

As is customary for the holiday, each candle should be lit for at least 30 minutes (though, some candelabras now offer electric candles with push buttons!).

After the lighting of candles, those gathered offer sayings and sing “Maoz Tzur.”

The display of candles is meant to be a very public thing. So, typically candles are displayed in the most prominent window in the house.

(Of course, fire safety methods should be followed, and candles shouldn’t be left lit unattended.)

A menorah has seven candle branches. The hanukkiah (or hanukkiah menorah) offers nine candle branches: One for each night plus the shammash, which is considered the “helper” candle that is used to light the others. “Menorah” is the Hebrew word for “lamp.”

It’s important to note that every hanukkiah is a menorah. But not every menorah is a hanukkiah.

Public displays

Efforts in the 1970s in the United States by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson to popularize Hanukkah led to a number of public hanukkiah displays.

Other Hanukkah traditions: Dreidel

Along the way, other traditions have helped to shape Hanukkah celebrations.

A popular Hanukkah tradition that nearly all elementary children learn about is the dreidel.

While the game is fun for children, dreidel grew out of a necessity to learn Hebrew and study the Torah after Greek King Antiochus IV, in 175 BCE, outlawed Jewish worship.

The four sides of the dreidel display:

  • Nun (נ)
  • Gimmel (ג)
  • Hey (ה)
  • Shin (ש)

When combined, “nun,” “gimmel,” “hay” and “shin” translate to “a great miracle happened there.”

How is dreidel played?

With at least two players, you’ll need the dreidel and tokens (usually chocolate tokens called gelt).

  1. Divide the tokens (gelt) equally among those playing.
  2. Spin the dreidel to see the order of game play. “Nun” is the highest rank, followed by “gimmel,” “hey” and “shin.” If there’s a tie? You know the drill: Keep spinning!
  3. Players place one token in the middle to play.
  4. Each player spins the dreidel once. Depending on the side the dreidel lands on, the player gives or takes tokens from the group collection.
    1. Shin: Add a token to the middle
    2. Nun: No action
    3. Gimmel: Take all of the tokens!
    4. Hay: Get half of all tokens in the middle. If there’s an odd number, round up.
  5. Play in a clockwise direction.
  6. Game continues until someone wins all of the tokens! (It’s much shorter than Monopoly!)
  7. Run out of tokens? Your game play is either over or you could ask for a “loan” from another player.
  8. Winner eats (but also could share) the chocolate!

Foods

What is a celebration without food?

Along with the gelt for playing dreidel, Hanukkah has evolved into a scrumptious food fest, complete with latkes (topped with applesauce or sour cream); brisket; sufganiyot (kind of like a jelly-filled doughnut); kugel (a Jewish noodle casserole dish) and cheesy foods (blintzes, cheese danishes, etc).

Gift-giving

Though considered to be a more recent tradition, giving gifts has become part of Hanukkah, which is said to derive from European tradition and the constant comparison between Hanukkah and Christmas in the United States.

Though the origins of gift-giving are generally unclear, it is said the idea of giving gifts grew in the 1950s as a way to make Jewish children be proud to be Jewish as they saw their friends and others getting gifts for Christmas.

The ultimate guide to Pittsburgh Light Up Night 2022

Pittsburgh Light Up Night 2022 marks 61 years since Pittsburgh first held a holiday-themed light up event. (In 1959, the city held its first light up event to celebrate the Pirates.)

This is your ultimate guide to doing ALL THE THINGS for Pittsburgh Light Up Night 2021! SHARE and BOOKMARK this page.

Remember: Pittsburgh Light Up Night is on Saturday, Nov. 19, this year. Some events do take place Friday, Nov. 18.

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Friday, Nov. 18

Santa’s House at Heinz Hall Courtyard

Visit Santa’s House at the Heinz Hall Courtyard. Get photos with Santa, and share your wish list with Santa.

Noon to 3, 4-7 p.m.

PPG Place

9 a.m. — Spirits of Giving from Around the World exhibit opens at PPG Place. The 16 life-sized Santas are on display in the windows of Two PPG Place along Fourth Avenue.
11 a.m. to midnight — Public skating opens at UPMC Rink at PPG Plaza
4:45 p.m. — RMU Island Sports figure skating show
5 p.m. — East End Kids performance
5:30 p.m. — American Cancer Society’s Tribute of Light Ceremony
6 p.m. — UPMC Ultimate Holiday Tree Lighting
6:15 p.m. — LED baton twirling performance
9 p.m. — Big Blitz Band concert

Market Square

Market Square Christmas tree with Fifth Avenue Place in the background

11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. — Peoples Gas Holiday Market grand opening
11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Live music on the stage
5 p.m. — “Pittsburgh Today Live” singers
5:30 to 9 p.m. — Merry Karaoke

Allegheny County Courthouse

Noon — Allegheny County Courthouse Tree lighting ceremony in the courtyard

U.S. Steel Tower Plaza

Noon — Blessing and opening of the Pittsburgh Crèche


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Saturday, Nov. 19

Tree lightings, other ceremonies, fun, fireworks

5 p.m. — City of Pittsburgh Tree Lighting with Zambelli rooftop fireworks at the City-County Building; see the 20th annual Gingerbread House Display & Competition

5 p.m. — Prantl’s 1-ton Horne’s Tree replica cake at 2 Gateway Center! This 8-foot-tall burnt almond torte will honor a throwback to Pittsburgh holidays — a replica of the Horne’s Tree! Take selfies with the cake. Slices will be available on Sunday, with proceeds benefitting the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

6 p.m. — Highmark Christmas (Horne’s) Tree lighting with Zambelli rooftop fireworks at Stanwix Street and Penn Avenue

9:30 p.m. — Xfinity Fireworks Spectacular with “supersized” Zambelli finale, Allegheny Overlook on Fort Duquesne Boulevard

Music and entertainment

Highmark Main Stage (Horne’s Tree)
Stanwix Street and Penn Avenue
12 – 5 p.m. — Ultimate Disney Tribute Band
5:30 – 6 p.m. — Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers
6 p.m. — Highmark Christmas Tree lighting with Zambelli rooftop fireworks
6:20 – 6:50 p.m. — Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers
7:30 – 9 p.m. — Royce

Xfinity Riverside Stage
Fort Duquesne Boulevard and Sixth Street
4 to 6 p.m. — Orange Music, featuring Isaiah Small
6:30 to 7:45 p.m. — Mr. Smalls All-Star Rolling Stones Tribute
8:30 to 9:30 p.m. — Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
9:30 p.m. — Xfinity Fireworks Spectacular with “supersized” Zambelli grand finale

Sounds of the Season Stage
Market Square
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — Wild Blue Yonder
2:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. — Paging Dr. Moon
5:30 to 9:30 p.m. — Con Alma presents Live Jazz

Cultural District Stage
Penn Avenue and Seventh Street
2 to 3:30 p.m. — Miss Freddye
4 to 5 p.m. — Sierra Sellers
5:30 p.m. — Pickup Line

City of Pittsburgh Grant Street Stage
414 Grant St.
4 to 5 p.m. — Ben & Friends
5 p.m. — City-County Building tree lighting with Zambelli rooftop fireworks
5:30 to 6:30 p.m. — River City Brass and Santa’s arrival
7 to 7:45 p.m. — CAPA Jazz Band
7:45 to 8 p.m. — Salvation Army Band
8 p.m. — Light show

Oxford Center Stage
301 Grant St.
5:45 to 9 p.m. — Holiday music by Scott and Rosanna
5:45 p.m. — Tree lighting ceremony and Santa’s arrival
6 to 9 p.m. — Visit with Santa