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By Michelle Leff Mermelstein
 

Can you believe the Festival of Lights is just around the corner? Hanukkah (or Chanukah) starts on the Hebrew calendar date of 25 Kislev and lasts for eight nights. In 2015, the holiday begins at sundown on Sunday, Dec. 6, and ends on Monday, Dec. 14.

Using your smartphone’s Web browser, you can find a wealth of information about the history of Hanukkah, recipes, songs, videos and more.

Learning this Holiday’s History
Despite occurring close to Christmas and Kwanzaa festivities, Hanukkah is usually not a big religious celebration for most observant Jews. It commemorates the victory of the ancient Israelites over the Syrian Greek army and the miracle of restoring the menorah in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The miracle of Hanukkah is that only one vial of oil was found with just enough to light for one day but it lasted for eight full days.

The History Channel offers a great “crash course” on how to celebrate Hanukkah with interesting videos! Better Homes & Gardens also offers helpful information on the holiday including songs and more.

Yummy Recipes
Just like so many other holidays, Hanukkah has its own traditional foods. Foods fried in oil are symbolic of the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days. The smell of frying potato latkes is always a welcome start to the holiday. Potatoes, onions, flour, salt, flour, eggs … it sounds simple but can get quite messy. There are tons of variations to the traditional latke recipe but Real Simple offers helpful tips on how to make them with the least amount of fuss. Chocolate gelt coins and jelly-filled donuts add to the richness of the celebration.

Songs to Celebrate
We have all heard the famous Adam Sandler Hanukkah song but there are many other songs that might be a bit more appropriate for little ones. Kveller offers links and clips from several songs that add to the festivities and fun. Speaking of little ones, Shalom Sesame has several neat videos on YouTube to help bring the holiday to life.

Lighting the Candles
You can get your own menorah at many local stores or online. Bed Bath & Beyond, Hallmark and numerous other national retailers have them available at this time of year. One of the biggest questions is always which direction to go when lighting the candles – the Jewish Outreach Institute is one of several online sources for accurate candle-lighting details. Don’t worry, they even have an interactive video. Best of all, they remind us that going left to right or right to left doesn’t really matter as long as you do the mitzvah (good dead) of lighting a menorah for the holiday.

Festive Fun
Some families keep the gifting simple while others go all out with big items each night. Lively rounds of the dreidel game seem universal in every family’s Hanukkah celebration. The Hebrew characters carved into the four sides of the dreidel are the first letters of "Ness Gadol Haya Sham," which roughly translates to "A Great Miracle Happened There."  Martha Stewart offers lots of crafts to make your own dreidel and décor. JewishKids.org also offers an easy template to cut our and create a dreidel.
However you celebrate, I wish you a warm and wonderful holiday season surrounded by family and friends!

Must-Have Hanukkah Apps:
  • Light My Fire: A Hanukkah App: Celebrate Hanukkah wherever you are! Select a contemporary or traditional Hanukkah lamp from the world-renowned collection of New York's Jewish Museum. Choose a unique background to place it on, light the lamp, and then share with your family and friends. You can also save the lamps to your very own collection. Available for iOS and Android. Free.
  •  Hanukkah Dreidel Match Game 2: The Hanukkah Dreidel Match Game is a timed, link matching game, featuring various Hanukkah images. It's easy to make the matches, and it’s fun for everyone! The object of the game is to match up all of the Hanukkah game icons and clear the board before the timer runs out. Available for Android.  $0.99.
  • Hanukkah Sliding Puzzle HD Lite: Enjoy Hanukkah playing this beautiful sliding puzzle, scramble and solve in the lowest amount of clicks. The picture includes a menorah, a dreidel, and Hanukkah gelt. Available for iOS. Free.
  • Super Dreidel: As seen in the New York Times, Macworld, and the Jewish Journal. The only dreidel app with full gameplay and animation for 2-8 players, two new fast-paced versions, and the dreidel song. Available for iOS. Free.
  • Digital Dreidel: Digital Dreidel is perfect in a pinch! Say you forgot your real wooden dreidel at home--not a problem. Just pull out your phone or other mobile device and you're ready to go with this electronic substitute. This 3D dreidel is also great for places where real spinning tops don't fare well – in a car while driving, on a plane, or anywhere that's without a stable, hard surface needed for traditional top spinning. Digital Dreidel can be played silently or with fun music and sound effects. Available for Android. Free.
  •  Jewish Days: Don't remember when and what each of the Jewish holidays means? Wonder how much time you have left until Passover? The Jewish Days application list all the holidays and explains each holiday’s meaning. Available for iOS. $0.99.

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