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Happy Hanukkah! Enjoy our handy holiday guide.

Happy Hanukkah! Enjoy our handy holiday guide.

Sunday, December 6, 2015 to Monday, December 7, 2015

This year, the Festival of Lights begins at sundown on December 6. Spertus has put together a handy holiday guide, complete with local events, recipes, and gift ideas. Curious about how the Jewish calendar works? In the mood for holiday-hybrid sweet potato latkes? You've come to the right place.

Enjoy this special Spertus Hanukkah FAQ!

What is Hanukkah?

Often referred to as the "Festival of Lights," Hanukkah commemorates a Jewish victory in the struggle for religious freedom, resulting in the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the year 165 BCE. The holiday has gained visibility in modern times, and is celebrated as an occassion to recount history, exchange gifts, and spend time with family and friends.

Why do Jewish holidays fall on different days every year?
Excellent question, and we'll do our best to explain without any complicated math. Jewish holidays aren't governed by the Western, or Gregorian, calendar used in the United States. That calendar, which originated in 1582, is based on the cycles of the sun. It is divided neatly into 12 months, with the completion of those months (and the Earth's rotation around the sun) equaling one full year. This pattern is relatively consistent, meaning that, except for the addition of a single day in leap years, the Gregorian calendar always has 365 days. The Jewish calendar is different. It's based on the cycles of the sun and the moon, which means the Jewish calendar year can have anywhere from 353 days to 385. Due to this discrepancy, Jewish holidays fall on different days in the Gregorian calendar. 

I'm ready to celebrate. Any ideas?

You bet. Here's the SPERTUS TOP 5 things to check out:

  1. A Book Lovers' Event.  Celebrate both the Festival of Lights and Jewish Book Month with our One Book | One Community author Lev Golinkin, who will share the hilarious tale of his family's escape from the USSR. Lev will be introduced by fellow Soviet escapee Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway Kefir. Booksigning, potato latkes, and candle lighting to follow >

  2. Arguably, the Most Intelligent Way to Celebrate. The Latke-Hamantash Debate has been a University of Chicago tradition since 1946. Faculty members apply the knowledge and tools of their disciplines in an evening of intellectual frivolity! This year's event took place November 25 (so if you're just reading this now, you missed it). But you can view the 2015 event in its entirety >

  3. Feel the Groove. The Maacabeats rose to prominence with their parody Candlelight in 2010. They're back with their spin on Walk the Moon's summer hit Shut up and Dance. Called Latke Recipe , it is bound to get stuck in your head for all eight nights >

  4. More Music You Say? Take in flora this holiday along with a rousing Hanukkah concert at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band performs two one-hour concerts at Alsdorf Auditorium on December 6. Ticket prices include full access to the Chicago Botanic Garden’s holiday Wonderland Express exhibition featuring a kiddo-pleasing model train to boot. And yes, the Gardens are beautiful in the winter too>

  5. Lots and Lots of Latkes. Get lots and lots of latkes at, LatkeFest. This delicious Hanukkah fest centered on our favorite holiday dish features a scrumptious potato pancake bar, Sufganiyot (Hanukkah jelly doughnuts), a dreidel scavenger hunt, Hanukkah song session, magic show, and candle lighting. It’s the perfect way to wrap up your celebrations with the whole family and get your fill of fried spuds>

One final very important question: What do we eat?
For many American Jews, Hanukkah is a great time to merge American and Jewish traditions, and there's no better place to do that than the kitchen. How about pumpkin spice latkes or fried apple fritters?

From all of us at Spertus, best wishes for a happy Hanukkah and a wonderful 2016!

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At left, cast iron menorah by award-winning designer Josh Owen, available at the Spertus Shop>

Is it Hanukkah or Chanukah?

Both! The name of the holiday is transliterated from Hebrew letters to the Roman alphabet, so the English is a phonetic representation and any spelling is equally correct. Spertus uses Hanukkah (used by Encyclopedia Judaica and many English dictionaries) but if you prefer Chanukkah or Chanuka or Hanuka or even Khanukkah, be our guest.

What about gifts?

The Spertus Shop is stocked with perfect presents. Here's a sampling.

Michael Aram menorahStar of the show. This handcrafted menorah's beaded trim and lustrous mirror finish will make for a stunning Hanukkah gift, designed by Michael Aram>

For chocolate lovers (ie: just about everyone). Leave the foil-wrapped stuff for the dreidel games and treat family and friends to gourmet Gelt for Grown-Ups>

Don't forget the children! They will love learning about their childhood through this paper time capsule>

Did Hanukkah sneak up on you? The Spertus Shop can arrange overnight delivery.

Fellow Chicagoans, take advantage of our Michigan Avenue curbside pick-up. We'll bring your purchases right to your car window when you order by phone! Call 888.322.1740.