As part of our holiday series, Robyn Carney shares with Nicole Magats about Hanukkah. She talks about the way that the day is celebrated and a little bit about the folklore around the town of Chelm.
Welcome back to the Talent Insights series on holidays that we celebrate during the winter season. I’m Robyn Carney, the DEI and sourcing lead here at Hirewell. If you’re not already following us, please feel free to like and subscribe and follow our channel on YouTube or any of our LinkedIn accounts. Today we’re going to be talking about Hanukkah with Nicole.
Hey guys, I’m Nicole. I am a senior recruiter on the Managed On-Demand team. And I’m so excited to be talking with Robyn about Hanukkah.
Yeah. For those of you who watch these videos back to back, you might realize that we literally just talked about St. Nick and Epiphany. Which is super exciting. So now we get to turn the tables a little bit and I get to talk about the holiday I celebrate with my family every winter.
So Nicole, what do you know about Hanukkah? Not a lot. I’ve been to some friends Hanukkah parties, like definitely the Latkes and the Menorah. I’m very excited to hear fresh from you where it comes from and even too, like how you celebrate it.
Yeah. Hanukkah’s my favorite holiday, like I mentioned in the St. Nick’s and epiphany video, I do have a Catholic father. So I grew up celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, but I love Hanukkah. It is not one of the major religious holidays for the Jewish community, but because of its proximity to Christmas, we usually have it off. It’s a very cozy, like the Menorah. It’s become a really thing in North America where we like celebrate it. But it’s not one of our more important religious holidays, like the ones that come in the fall. So what Hanukkah is also known as, is the Festival of Lights. And every year we celebrate it on the same day, on the Hebrew calendar, which is the 25th of Kislev.
But, because the Hebrew calendar doesn’t match up with the Gregorian calendar, it floats a little bit between November and December. Usually late November, to like late December-ish. One time we did have Hanukkah on Thanksgiving. That was wild. But usually it doesn’t go that early. It was really fun. We had like Latkes as a side dish with Turkey.
Oh, that’s so cute. Can you make Latkes with the stuffing? Do you think? Oh my god, that would be so good. We did not think to do that, but I bet it would be really tasty. So. Yeah, like mix it in with some potatoes. Maybe I’ll do that next week. Mm. Yeah.
This year, Hanukkah starts on the 18th, at night. Jewish holidays start the night before, and go into the next day. So, the first day is the 19th. I’m super excited for it.
So I’ll tell a little bit about the story. So the reason why it’s called The Miracle of Lights is basically there was this group called the Macabees. The Macabees were a group that managed to reclaim control of Judea. And in the process of reclaiming Judea, they found that the oil that was left in the temple was damaged. Most of it was damaged. And in the temple we have a light that’s supposed to be forever burning. This light is very symbolic. There was only enough oil left to burn for one day. And instead of burning for one day, it burned for the eight days necessary for more oil to be made. This story appears actually 600 years after the actual event happened. It appears in the Talmud, not in the books of the Macabees. Which is like really interesting because it’s like okay, so where did we start celebrating this tradition? So either way, Festival of Lights, right? We fry a lot of food and oil. So we talked a little bit about Latkes. Latkes are potato pancakes. So we shred potatoes and onions, put them in patties and fry them.
There are places that celebrate by eating Sufganiyot, which is fried donuts with a jelly stuffing. And we light a Menorah. The way you fill it is dependent. So like some people start with eight candles and the Shamash, which is like the candle in the middle, that lights all the other ones.
Some people start with eight and then remove as time goes on, over the eight days. My family starts with one and adds as the time goes on. Is there a reason there’s a difference?
Is it just like a cultural thing or does it mean anything? So a lot of Jewish traditions, when you boil them down, have their roots in like different rabbis arguing about different things and what the meanings of different things are and nobody ever comes to a consensus.
It’s one of my favorite things. If you’ve ever done Talmudic study or like read the Mishnah or anything, it’s just a bunch of rabbis being like, “Well, I think we should do this and I think we should do this.” So I don’t remember the exact rabbi’s opinions, but I believe the idea is that you should start joyously and as time goes on things are ending so you take away light. Versus adding on you just keep getting happier as time goes on. Yeah. Don’t know, like who might regionally celebrate different things. I do know my family adds candles as it goes on, and that’s primarily how we do it.
So in addition to deep frying foods, there’s the German cousin that we also get to experience. If you’re in Chicago and you go to Christkindl Mart, you can get like the German version of Latkes. Which are called potato pancakes, I think. We also play dreidel, which is just like a little fun gambling game where you have a dreidel, which is basically a top with four sides. And each side has a different Hebrew word on it that has a different meaning for a phrase.
And each letter means a different amount. So you spin it and whatever it falls on. So like if it falls on Gimel, you get to take the whole pile. If it falls on Hay, you only take half. If it falls on Shin, you have to put one in and you usually play with like pennies. Some people play with like chocolate gelt.
That would never work in my family because we eat the chocolate gelt. Giving out gelt is like a great, like a big thing. So gelt is basically chocolate candy that’s covered in tin foil. And one of my favorite things because it’s just a little tiny bit of chocolate and you can just eat it and eat it and nobody notices you’re doing it.
And usually at all the Hanukkah parties I’ve been to, somebody decoratively puts Hanukkah gelt all over a table and I just like nab at it. And so like, yeah. But you have like all the little foils that you have to like dispose of after. Yeah, you’ll be finding tin foil for days if you let children have it unsupervised.
But I would always
Yeah, it’s just like who put this tinfoil? Like what are you doing? The traditional ones is gold. Means milk, chocolate. And silver means dark chocolate. So I’d always be on the lookout, but some brands don’t follow that rule. I’d get a dark chocolate, like a silver one, and it’d be like, this is dark chocolate.
The first time I had Trader Joe’s-
has like a bag of chocolate covered coins and I was like, this is all wrong. They just kind of covered the coins however they wanted to.
For children, it’s a gift giving holiday. There’s eight days of Hanukkah. Some families just do like one big present and then seven small presents. My mom, she usually would let us like barter a certain amount of presents. So like if throughout the fall we’d be like, I really want this.
And she’d be like, is it one of your Hanukkah presents? Which is like a very good way to get kids to like, ration asking for things because you know, like-
My parents did that too. Yeah. It’s smart. It’s smart. Smart honestly. Business children. Yeah. Yeah. My aunt always gives us a little baggy filled with eight little things. Like dreidels or a water bottle or something small and silly.
Aww. But yeah, it’s definitely something that typically children get Hanukkah gifts. It’s not usually something that, like if you’re all adults, you might not celebrate Hanukkah in the same way that you did if there’s like children involved.
It’s definitely interesting. Yeah. More like, let’s make something magical and joyous for the kids. Which is great. And I think maybe that’s just like my family speaking, so I’m always excited to hear about how other people celebrate Hanukkah as well.
I’d love to hear a special like Hanukkah moment that you think of that’s representative to you of the holiday or the time.
One of my favorite Hanukkah things I remember, is that my mom decided that one year she was gonna go big for our Hanukkah present. As opposed to like, give us a bunch of tiny things. She was just gonna give us one big thing each. And I was like maybe 9 or 10 and she had gotten me like an American Girl Doll.
I was like obsessed with it. Oh, which one? Molly, of course. Like who else? Who else? Joking aside, I always really liked that every year my uncle’s synagogue, who I’m a member of, would have a Hanukkah party and the congregation is like really small. So like my entire family would basically roll up at the synagogue party and be half the participants.
Like the whole congregation. Yeah. We’d light all the candles. There’s this video that I’ve literally never found on DVD or VHS anywhere called Aaron’s Magical Village. And we would watch it every Hanukkah. And it’s like this german movie that had been dubbed into English and you cannot find it anywhere. It’s a story about a boy moving to this like fictional town of Chelm where everybody’s an idiot and it’s like great. It’s like so good. And I’m not like being a jerk and I’m saying like, everybody’s an idiot. Like literally everybody is foolish and silly and they don’t understand things. And they don’t understand things in that they have created their own kind of like logic for everything.
Yeah. If you hear stories about Chelm, they’re all just like, oh my God. But they’re so great. And I have like a book right here, underneath my menorah. That I forgot to show off earlier. I have this book. I saw that video all the time when I was a kid and I thought this was like a one-off thing.
And then when I grew up, I got this book and there’s like a whole chapter on stories about Chelm and I’m like, I love it. I love it. They’re so great. So there’s a whole like cinematic universe too? There’s like a whole like folklore around this like fictional town somewhere in Germany. Where it’s just filled with people who are just like-
they do stuff like-
they go to the town next to them to ask them how to make bagels. And the person in the town next to them, tells them that in order to make bagels, they have to measure things correctly. So they have to buy a bunch of bagels from them in order to make their own bagels in Chelm. So they buy a bunch of bagels instead of learning how to make their own bagels correctly. And when they’re going home, they have to go down a hill and they’re like, well, what’s the quickest way to get down this hill?
Like of course we throw all the bagels down this hill because like everybody in chelm, is like not very smart. But they think they’re wise. So they’re all like rolling down the hill with a bunch of bagels. And it’s just like, okay. It’s one of my favorite stories. When I read it every single time, I’m just like laughing.
But like, the story is about this little boy who goes to live with his aunt and uncle in Chelm. And he’s surrounded by all these people who are like, we are so wise and genius, but he’s like 10 and he knows what’s up. It’s great. It was one of my favorite things to watch with my like little American Girl Doll. Like while the lights are going, all the candles, you get to eat a lot of chocolate. Love Hanukkah. Yeah. Great holiday. That’s so fun.
I have so many questions about that movie too that I like want to watch. I’m gonna find it. You have it? We’ll save that for another day. We’ll do a viewing. CSI. We will CSI. We’ll find that video. It has to exist because I found it on YouTube once, but it was like in German and I was like, well, okay.
I don’t speak any German. It’s like a family project to dub. So funny. Okay. But if somebody has a link to buy that on DVD, drop it in the comments, please. Let us know. Let us know. Yeah. I want that particular movie. Okay. But yeah. Thanks so much. I’m so glad I got to tell you a little bit about Hanukkah. Thank you for joining me today, Nicole.
Thank you for having me. I had so much fun. Yeah, it was a party. If you follow either of us, if you’re interested in hearing more, and then also follow the Talent Insights page. We have a lot of great stuff coming out here at Hirewell. Have a lovely day. Bye y’all.