Lighting the Candles and Making Memories


Donated by Lauren Castillo

Marissa Levinson, Staff Writer

   Lauren Castillo’s Hanukkah Traditions

   It’s late at night, the room is silent and gifts are opened, but the luminosity of flickering candles remains. 

   Retrieving a menorah from the cabinet, placing it on the counter, and lighting the candles for each of Hanukkah’s eight nights is a festivity that sophomore Lauren Castillo and other Jewish households across the world take part in every year. As one of the few Jewish students who attends PPCHS, she reveals her customs during the joyous season.

   The sole tradition that makes Hanukkah the special holiday that it is, is the lighting of the menorah candles. Aside from glimmering in the darkness that night brings, the candles, placed from right to left on the menorah, carry their own meaning. Every night during this holiday, an additional candle is lit, symbolizing the miracle of how the small amount of oil miraculously kept Jerusalem’s Temple menorah lit for eight days. Hanukkah is centered around spending quality time with family and partaking in traditions old and new throughout the years.

   Similar to other holidays, Hanukkah revolves around finding comfort in the company of one another and learning more about the importance of celebrating. One of Lauren’s favorite traditions is sitting down at the dining table with her “grandparents on the first night of Hanukkah.” They enjoy foods such as latkes, which are delicious potato pancakes made during the ‘Festival of Lights.’ Along with the fried goodness, Castillo also shares challah, a braided bread of Jewish origin, with her family.

   The first sundown of Hanukkah is a time to talk to one another, laugh, and open gifts in the Castillo family. One way Hanukkah varies from other religious holidays is how “it’s spread out through eight days, and the date changes every year, ” Lauren explains. Beginning on November 28th and lasting through December 6th, Hanukkah makes an early arrival this year. Eight days, eight nights of gift wrap scattered around the floor. In the events following lighting the candles and saying a prayer, the spotlight is on the gifts. 

   It’s not only about receiving all the gifts on your list, however.  “Giving gifts to your family during the holidays” shows what they mean to you, and your appreciation for them is made apparent. In the past, the main gift given to children during Hanukkah was chocolate gold coins called gelt. The coins, with Hanukkah themed designs, can be earned through a game of dreidel, a spinning top game in which gelt is the reward. It’s another lighthearted way that Lauren and her family spend their time together during the eight nights.

   With countless traditions unique to Judaism, Hanukkah’s eight nights represent great meaning to Lauren Castillo, her close family and others who celebrate.