Ana’s Advent Calendar, Day 16: Chag Chanuka Sameach!


Today’s post is brought to you by B. Snow and Nancy Levine. It also contains a special surprise by The Long Bean.

Nancy Levine

As I write this blog, I am going through the last of the possessions in my parents’ home so it can be sold, which is bittersweet for me. I remember that horrible day, Dec. 3rd, 2012, when my life, and my parents’ lives changed forever. I watch the junk removal service take things out to their truck, seeing our lives go by and hoping that on Chanukah, the time that a great miracle happened there, some will happen here, too.


After a year, I finally completed my short story collection, “Silver Dreidels.” It’s about families who are celebrating the holiday and trying to deal with problems in their own lives.


Chanukah commemorates the Maccabees fight for the survival of the Jewish people and their cherished Torah. There were several miracles that happened during that time, and the holiday of Chanukah was celebrated. These days focus on the Jewish people’s eternal connection to God and our ability to choose the right path. The military victory of just a few Maccabees over a huge, well-armed Greek army was the first miracle of Chanukah. Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting a huge army of problems that are never going away. Other times I have hope that that my family, friends and I will persevere like the Maccabees.

Immediately after the military victory, the Jews returned to the Holy Temple only to find it defiled and completely desecrated. Wanting to rededicate the Temple in order to perform the daily services, the Jews needed to light the Menorah with oil certified as pure by the High Priest. One vessel of pure oil was found among the ruins, which contained enough fuel for only one day. Miraculously, the Menorah stayed lit for seven additional days! To celebrate these miracles, Jews light their own smaller menorahs for eight days. They must be placed in a window to show everyone what God did for the Jewish people.

We also commemorate Chanukah by playing the game of dreidel.

Here’s what you’ll need to do this:

  • “Gambling pieces” (plastic chips, pennies, small candies, buttons, peanuts in the shell, etc. may be used) for each player
  • A dreidel for the group.

How to Play

Distribute an equal number of gambling pieces to each player. Begin play by having each of the players ante up one or two pieces into a common pot. Take turns spinning the dreidel and taking the actions determined by the letter you spin:

Nun: The player takes nothing.
Gimel: The player takes all.
Hey: The player takes half.
Shin: The player puts in.

The letters stand for the phrase: A great miracle happened there.

The winner is the person who collects all the gambling pieces.

One of the things that I did when we had a Chanukah party at my parents’ house was to play Dreidel of Fortune, so I got to be Vanna White and turn the letters around. I loved our parties and every year, I tried to do something creative such as making up parodies to the tune of Christmas songs. Example: “Silver Dreidels” instead of “Silver Bells.”

A New Tradition

In addition to lighting and blessing candles, eating latkes (potato pancakes) or donuts, and exchanging gifts, I think I will try a new tradition with the dreidel game and put a portion of any royalties I make from the sale of “Silver Dreidels” e-books in the kitty and donate it to one of my favorite charities such as The Cure Starts Now, Cancer Family Care, the Alzheimer’s Association or the Free Store/Food Bank.

Silver Dreidels (Rated G)


From “Silver Dreidels”

Dean Elias still didn’t know why he’d let his sister talk him into hiring Shelby as his lawyer. Everything about her screamed rich from the designer satchel she carried to her navy business suit and starched white blouse. She smelled like lily of the valley, the kind that used to grow in his grandmother’s garden. Sitting in his car in the parking lot of the law office as he warmed it up, he thought of her raven hair that had the same scent. When the talc had fallen out of the satchel, and Shelby’s co-workers had laughed, it had made her seem more human. And her story about life in the sixth grade had exposed vulnerability. Okay, so maybe Callyn, his sister, was right. Sometimes Callyn had a lot of common sense, and other times, she had her head in the clouds.

Available on Amazon, where you can also buy “Tasteless Holidays” just in time for Christmas gift giving.


Nancy Goldberg Levine is the author of the Practically Perfect Heroes series featuring Mr. Short, Dark…& Funny, Mr. Tall, Tan…& Tasteless, Tasteless Holidays, Three Strikes—You’re in Love, (a short story collection), and Sweeter Than W(h)ine. She sold her first romance novel, Tempting Jonah, in 1999, and entered the world of Indie publishing in 2012. She has also sold more than sixty short stories. She was in the publishing field for more than twenty years, and now works for the government. Nancy is writing her next book and telling the stories of certain characters that won’t leave her alone. She loves to hear from her readers.


You can find Nancy’s books on Amazon:


She also writes a blog, “Laugh with Me,”, and you can visit her on Facebook: Nancy Levine, or Twitter NancyGLevine@nancyglevine

You can also visit her alter ego, Vi LaNance’s, page on Pinterest: and see boards for her characters and books, as well as Vi LaNance’s








B. Snow

So I was chatting with Ana about holiday memories. I remember my mother explaining to me that we have latkes for Hanukkah because they’re cooked in oil, and Hanukkah is about the miracle of the oil.

Well, the true “miracle” of the oil at Hanukkah is how one bottle of cooking oil that should last for months somehow miraculously gets entirely used up on a single batch of latkes. Same with one roll of paper towels. Eight layers (one for each night of Hanukkah?) and yet somehow the oil from the latkes miraculously soaks all the way through onto the stove.

Another oily treat is sufganiyot, which I’d never heard of until about 10 years ago. (For anyone who doesn’t know what they are, they’re like donut holes – deep fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar – with jelly inside. We got some last Hanukkah from the Chasidic Jews who put up electric menorahs in Playa del Carmen and Cozumel and went around lighting candles with Jewish store owners and handing out sufganiyot to tourists like us, who knew what they were. But I digest….)

As a kid, I was dying to have Christmas. Yes, Hanukkah is eight nights of candles and presents, but when you grow up in the US (or any country that has months-long foreplay building up to the Christmas day orgasm), you can’t help but be drawn into the desire for a tree to decorate and stockings to hang from the mantel. My parents let me do stockings once or twice, and I gave gifts to the family one Christmas Eve when my brother and sister were back from college.

I remember my sister sneering a bit at even that small Christmas celebration – she was in her somewhat militant Jewish phase, just before she went to spend her junior year of college in Israel. (Which is how she knew what sufganiyot were years before I did.) The same sister, who, after having kids with her husband, who is Catholic (all Reform Jews end up marrying Catholics – it’s true, look it up), celebrated Christmas for them. She won’t put lights on their house because that would make the neighbors think they celebrate Christmas, even though THEY DO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS!!1one!

But back to me, because this post is about me. 😛 I held a very successful Hanukkah party for our Harry Potter group several years ago, “Hanukkah at the Goldsteins”. Because there is a character in the HP books, who, if you’re not Jewish, you may have never really taken notice of. Anthony Goldstein is a Ravenclaw (it’s true, look it up), and JK Rowling never explicitly said he was Jewish, but I took reader’s license and made him so. For the party, we had latkes, played a version of dreidel that involved HP trivia, and lit menorahs and exchanged gifts every 20 minutes or so in order to get through all eight nights in one.

It’s no coincidence that Hanukkah and Christmas and Kwanzaa all involve lighting candles. At the time of the year with the longest nights, candles and family and food make everyone a little happier. We need the warmth and light. So whichever holiday(s) you celebrate, I hope it’s/they’re happy, and if you don’t celebrate anything, I wish you warmth and light during the coming months. (Unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere because you’re heading into summer so you’ll have all the light and warmth you want. It’s true, look it up.)

Special surprise!



The Long Bean has prepared a special musical challenge for today. In order to play, you’ll need to email a list of the 20 artists and titles included in the clip. Send answers to:

You have until midnight UTC tomorrow, December 17th. (UTC is five hours faster than EST, the typical Ana event time zone. That means you have until 8 PM EST tomorrow night to send your answer.)


103 thoughts on “Ana’s Advent Calendar, Day 16: Chag Chanuka Sameach!

  1. Tina S. says:

    Thank you for sharing your stories! I love learning new things, and this year I have been learning so much. After I hear all the stories and traditions I’m not fimilar with, I done more research, and am just blown away. I can’t wait to learn more


  2. thelongbean says:

    Thank you for sharing your stories.
    In Greece the population is 95% Greek orthodox. Christmas is traditionally celebrated on January 1st, St. Basil’s name day. However with the globalisation of everything, many Greek people celebrate the Christian Christmas and the Orthodox one.
    St Basil’s day includes a special cake (Vasilopita) in which a coin is hidden. The person whose slice has the coin is due good luck in the following year.


  3. Holla Dean says:

    Great stories! I remember playing dreidel when I was still in school. Many (most) of my friends were Jewish. The public schools I went to had 85-90% Jewish students. On their holidays there were only 4 or 5 students in class and the teachers would let us play games or read instead of doing lessons.
    The Jewish traditions I learned back then were beautiful. The parents of my friends where always so kind when I asked why they celebrated what they did. They were always willing to tell me the stories.
    Thanks for sharing these stories with us.


  4. Amy says:

    Great post! Being from a half-n-half family, we celebrated both holidays. But Hanukkah with my dad’s parents was soooooo boring! They were very religious, but not much into doing fun things, and the idea of cooking *anything* in oil (regardless of tradition) was a no-no in their house. Ah, well. Now that I’m a parent, I want my own kids to understand that while we may not be religiously Jewish, they come from a rich heritage. I used to feel strange about it, like maybe I was “taking” something that didn’t belong to me because of my mixed parentage. That’s not the case, and no one has ever said “Don’t teach your children about their ethnic background!” So I do teach them; I don’t want them to forget their ancestors. Well, and latkes *are* one of the finest foods on earth. LOL!


  5. abby says:

    Thanks for sharing your traditions with us… opens our hearts and eyes to see there are many ways to celebrate. I am spending most of today in airports…and am terrible at IDing who sang what…so thanks for what sounds like fun…but i will not be able to participate.
    hugs abby


  6. Chickie says:

    The lady who was like a mom to be is Jewish. I fondly remember visiting on usually the friday of Hanukkah and making myself sick on greasy food. I had to participate in manual labor, grating vegetables until knuckles were raw, onion tears streaming down my cheeks, and oil burns up my arms. So worth the effort though. That’s the family that made me feel special 🙂

    And for the song game, I’m totally stealing this from a friends’ Facebook cause it’s so true…

    Listen, I’m surrounded by little children all day. So unless Dora sings it, Bob builds it, or Dr. Seuss wrote it, I have no idea what you are talking about.


  7. Shannon Love says:

    I love the story. All of it. I never thought of Christmas as the month long foreplay before the climax but it’s totally true. Now Christmas stuff is slowing slinking its way into stores around Hallowe’en – in fact, Santa’s little village was set up in the mall the day after Hallowe’en this year – I’m in Canada, we have no more holidays until Christmas.
    It brings me back to the actual spirit of the season when I read and learn about how other cultures celebrate. It puts it all back into perspective.
    I had to latch onto the Harry Potter section. I thought I was the only one who followed minor characters. I read the book later in life (in my 30’s) and I fell in love with so many minor characters. The main characters were fine, I just found more in common with those with small parts. I think the Weasley parents were among my favourites.
    And as for the music/artist challenge . . well played. . . I have a lot of research to do because I got a few artists and a few songs but not a complete entry. I did hear Anne Murray (at least it sounded like her).
    Have a great season, to everyone, and may all your celebrations warm your hearts!


  8. Leigh Smith says:

    Love that your sister won’t put up Christmas lights outside because she doesn’t want people to know she celebrates Christmas – talk about denial. Made me laugh at the things we do to ease our conscience. My very best friend is Jewish and she puts a wreath on her outside door, it’s all decorated in blue and she puts a Star of David in the middle – she covers both sides.


  9. Renee says:

    Thank you for sharing your traditions and stories. Nancy, sorry about your loss. It is difficult to close the door on possessions of the people we love. I have just finished attending a Christmas Around the World event at the school. We traveled from America to Germany, Holland, Italy, Australia, China, and ended at Chanukah. The children told us all about the history behind the candles, played the Dreidel game and shared a cookie snack. Now I will say that I did not learn about the eleven month foreplay to the orgasm of Christmas or that all reformed Jews married Catholics at the school but as usual Ana’s blog filled in the naughty parts. Thanks and blessings. R


  10. Joelle Casteel says:

    Loved the stories! Thanks. It was fun reading a slightly different telling of the Maccabees- I’m a UU and one of our ministers at my church is a “Jewnitarian”- (she’s Jewish and UU and happily combines the two beliefs as works for her). LOL a B. Snow with the story of oil and paper towels 😀


  11. SH says:

    I hope every day to learn something new and I did that today! Thank you for the stories, I honestly learned some things I never knew!

    Great selection of songs for the quiz btw. However, I totally suck at it!! 🙂 I did, however, notice that my favorite Christmas song is included 🙂


  12. Laurel Lasky says:

    I loved the stories. It brings back happier memories of playing dreidel with my sister and brother. We played for left over Halloween candy. My Little brothers birthday was November 28 and mine was November 25 ( we were both born on thanksgiving) and we felt gypped because our birthdays were near thanksgiving and Christmas so we got eight little gifts and hung our stocking up for more little gives, like soap, socks and various other practice stuff.
    We did have latchas and when Ed and I lived in Israel we had sofgoniot which were great when hot but like lead when cold. Holidays in Israel were wonderful and we danced around the campfires.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I think you send me a post, right Laurel? I hope I didn’t lose it. Please let me know if I did. Of course, it’s entirely possible you didn’t and I forgot. If you do have it, please send it to me again and I’ll post it.


      • Laurel Lasky says:

        I didn’t send a post so you didn’t forget. I just added my 2 cents to Ruth’s and Nancy’s post.
        Basically the story goes that Judah Macabee was fighting the Greeks way bank before the Internet. The Greeks were out numbered but managed to beat their opponents. They went into a cave and found a small cask holding a small amount of sacred oil. They burned it in an eight candlestick called a nemorah. Then something magical happened. The candles burned for 8 days. A true blessing.
        We eat pototas pancakes ( latchas) and jelly donuts. We light a chandle every night for eight days to remember the miracle. We also get small gift for eight days.


    • SH says:

      My birthday is November 25th too! I hate that it’s close to Thanksgiving cuz it usually got lumped in with it. When I was born it was the day they buried JFK and I was born in a military hospital. My Mom said everyone was crying 😦


  13. ruthshulman says:

    The story of Hanukkah is one of my favorite stories… all about people coming together to triumph over persecution and oppression; people who see their faith in action, the blessings that come from acting on faith.

    Seeing the comments about the music quiz scares me, but I think I’ll give it a shot. 😀


  14. P.T. Wyant says:

    Loved cooking oil story. But now I’m hungry, it’s almost 1:00, I have to l go get ready for work in a little over an hour, and I don’t have time to go cook anything yummy. (Too much to do between now and then.)

    Growing up in small towns in Western Pennsylvania I was never exposed to any kind of multiculturalism and I do feel the poorer for it.

    As a Pagan, I celebrate Yule/Mid-Winter/Winter Solstice (pick a name — there are a few others to choose from as well) which is also a festival of lights.

    May all your days be holy and blessed.


  15. AFOdom says:

    I love learning new things and new traditions. Regardless of belief system, everyone celebrates their important days so uniquely. Thanks!

    Also, I tried that song game video for about 3 tracks, then gave up and just listened to it. I bow down to whomever gets those. 🙂


  16. pieclown says:

    Hello Ana and all,

    It was nice to read about the traditions of Hanukkah (wiki’s spelling). I knew that the dreidel
    was a game but did no know how it was played. I have some clown friends that are Jewish and I wish them Happy Hanukkah and they wish me Merry Christmas. And we entertain all children at the hospital.

    Pie pie 4 now


  17. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your traditions. Where I live in rural Australia there is very little cultural diversity, so it is lovely to be able to share our differences and similarities vicariously through FB.


  18. JC says:

    I love hearing about other holiday traditions. I have seen a dreidel but never played it.
    There is no way I will get all the songs and not any chance of getting even a couple of the artist. But it is a fun challenge.


  19. catrouble says:

    Thank you both for sharing your stories and traditions…it’s funny…I was raised traditional Catholic and was always jealous of the the Jewish kids because they got 8 count them EIGHT! nights of gifts. Grass is always greener isn’t it. LOL

    Thanks LongBean for the beautiful music. D…I’m usually good at identifying at least the title of the song if not the artist but I only knew 6 songs and 2 artists. 😦

    Hugs and Blessings…


  20. Laura says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your stories. I have listened to the video four times and I’m only hearing 19 songs. Oh well, I’m off to listen to it a fifth time and maybe I’ll finally figure out where the missing is.


  21. sassytwatter says:

    Great post! Suiper hungry now tried to redpond three times but my baby doesn’t nap and us wiggly trying to prep for hannuak! Ekk sorry


  22. Mary M. says:

    My sister has taught at a Jewish Day School for over twenty years, and she gets many food presents, and she would totally agree with you re the oil and the paper towels. My daughter grew up thinking that Chanukah gelt and dreidels are an important part of the holidays (I think she spins a loaded dreidel!) Several of my coworkers are Coptic Christians from Egypt and they celebrate Old Christmas on what others call Epiphany or January 6th. Here in Wisconsin, we all celebrate the Winter Solstice as the time when the days will start getting longer and we welcome the idea that spring is only 4 months away 🙂
    Nancy, what you are doing with the royalties of Silver Dreidels is a mitzveh.
    B. Snow, Hanukkah at the Goldsteins sounds like a marvelous party
    P. T., a Merry Yule to you!


  23. lara estes says:

    There are so many different celebration this time of year it is so fascinating. I am going to have to research all of them,excited! Thank you to everyone for sharing.


  24. Marybeth says:

    The challenge sounds fun, but I’m terrible at titles! Your traditions sound very nice. I like making our own traditions and look forward to our kids making their own as well.


  25. minelle says:

    Thank you all for this wonderful post. I love hearing how all faiths celebrate the Holidays.
    I had a friend in college who was Jewish and we were quite good friends for many years. We loved to call one another during the Season and share our gifts and celebrations!

    I am curious to see if anyone gets all of the songs correct!


  26. Roz Harrison says:

    Really enjoyed reading this. Thank you for sharing your stories, experiences and traditi with us. Enjoyed learning more about Chanukah.



  27. Sarah Bennett says:


    I missed commenting on Tuesday due to many challenges associated with my dog’s travel paperwork. we’re all set now but I’ve so much to do before departure thurs morning.

    My dear friend and sister by choice, Laura, celebrates Chanukah and we lit her menora last night. I hadn’t ever experienced such a different cultural experience before since I grew up Christian. We discussed the miracle of Chanukah and the history. I learned much as I listened.

    Interestingly enough, my dog’s name is Dreydl ( an 8 month old mini Schnauzer ) because she used to spin around in circles a ton as a tiny pup. My friend Laura helped me name her and Dreydl like the Jewish/Hebrew spinning top seemed perfect for my sweet baby pup. Now I always have a reminder of diversity as a whole.

    Blessings to all.


  28. mickeymab (aka Michelle B) says:

    OK I’ve officially signed up and gave the song quiz a good shot!

    @thelongbean – The rules didn’t specify so I hope it’s OK to use technology to help identify the artists and the songs! (I suck at song titles although I knew most of the tracks haha)

    A long time kinky friend of mine sent me a joke this morning and as I read it, I knew it would be one this crowd would enjoy 😉

    “A young guy was complaining to his boss about the problems he was having with his stubborn girlfriend.

    “She gets me so angry sometimes I could hit her,” the young man exclaimed.

    “Well, I’ll tell you what I used to do with my wife,” replied the Boss. “Whenever she got out of hand I’d take her pants down and spank her”.

    Shaking his head the young guy replied “I’ve tried that… it doesn’t work for me. Once I get her pants down I’m not mad anymore.””

    Happy spanky Holidays!


  29. Kyra says:

    Thanks for sharing the meaning of Chanukah !! I have always lived the story and appreciate hearing it here again. Wil try the music quiz. Not sure how I will do through😊😊


      • Nancy Levine says:

        I am sorry I wasn’t able to participate in the rest of the Advent Calendar. As usual, real life intervened and it still is. Health, financial, emotional, you name it, it all hit at once and I am overwhelmed. I did not get “Silver Dreidels” up on Amazon’s site, but I hope to have it there soon. Another thing that happened is that my computer wasn’t working for a few weeks. I am hoping it is fixed, at least for the time being. And a friend of mine from work passed away after a bout with cancer.

        Once again, I am sorry. Thanks for all the wonderful posts and your understanding — this is a great blog.


  30. laurellasky says:

    On second thought I did send a post. It’s listed above. We also get Chanukah gelt which is money or gold foil wrapped around chocolate in the shape of a coin. We light a candle every night for 8 nights. The top candle is used to light the other candles. Some people have electric candles. We also have a fictitious Chanukah bush. We sing songs and eat lakes and sofganot with is a jelly donut. It’s a joyful holiday and a time of remembering the miracle of how a small amount of oil lasted for 8 days. I guess this can be considered a post.
    Blessings to all and to all a good night.


  31. michellewillms2013 says:

    I am one of the folks who continues to be late on all the posts. It’s been one of those years. Thanks for sharing different traditions with us. It’s important. I’m passing on this information (what I can, that is) to my children. I want them to have as much information about various Christmas traditions as possible, so they can add to their own. They are 10 and 11 and Christmas is such a special time.


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