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Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

Dreidels and delights

A glimpse into student Hanukkah festivities
Freshman Ike Diamond lighting his Hanukkiah. This photo was taken on the first night of Hanukkah this year.

Lighting candles. Spending time with family. Receiving gifts. Eating lots of food. The celebration of the eight-day Jewish holiday Hanukkah unites and allows Jewish students to unwind and embrace their culture.

This year, Hanukkah started on Friday, December 8th, but this date changes every year. Ranging from gifting chocolate oranges to catering fast food for family dinner, these students’ Hanukkah celebrations are unlike any other.

Ike Diamond, 9th grade

“I celebrate Hanukkah with whatever family I’m with. I go to England for Christmas break, and if Hanukkah falls over Christmas break, then I celebrate it with my British family, which includes some very extended family on my dad’s side. This year will be the first time I’m celebrating Hanukkah in Houston. I moved here recently, so I imagine I’ll celebrate it with my family here.

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When it comes to food, my grandmother in Houston loves to make matzah ball soup. We also eat latkes and sufganiyot. Hanukkah is all about eating fried foods in oil because it signifies the miracle of the oil in the story of Hanukkah.

I think there’s no reason to give eight small gifts if you can just consolidate and get something nice for someone. For instance, this year I’m pretty sure I’m getting a new iPhone. When it comes to opening gifts, I don’t really see a need to wait, so when my new phone arrives I will probably open it immediately.

When I lived in New York, we would put a Hanukkiah on our front window, however, I’m not sure if we will still continue doing that in my new house. If I’m in England for Hanukkah, we have a very large group and take part in a massive dreidel tournament. There’s like twenty of us who take part in the tournament and instead of competing for only gelt, we compete for mini presents as well. It’s like gambling with gelt, presents and dreidels.

I don’t really go to Hanukkah parties in Houston unless I’m invited to a high school party at a friend’s house. In London there’s just more people, and they live closer to a synagogue so they are more religious.”


Emma Manne, 10th grade

“Who I celebrate Hanukkah with depends on the year. This year I will be with extended family because they are coming to town, but other years it’s just my close family. I think this year we are going to attend a Hanukkah party. We don’t throw our own parties, though.

Every year my dad makes latkes using his own recipe. We don’t really have any other foods that we only eat on the holiday, though.

My gifts sort of range every year. If I get one really really really big gift, I may not get any others. However, if I don’t get a large gift, then I usually will get smaller gifts every night. My gifts range from gift cards from extended family to clothing. Also, every year my grandma used to buy all of her grandchildren chocolate oranges. They’re like balls of chocolate cut into slices to look like an orange. So now it’s become a tradition for my parents to give my brother and me chocolate oranges every year for Hanukkah.

Everyone in my family has their own menorah, and on a typical night of Hanukkah, we make it a point to find a time to say the prayers and light the candles together, and if there are presents to open we open them, and just spend the time together as a family. If it’s a weekend, we usually have more time and we might have a sit down dinner together and really emphasize spending time with each other.

We don’t put up any decorations, and I usually will only play dreidel with a few friends. Like, this year I have a couple of friends coming over to play dreidel with me and sometimes we use gelt and other times we use jelly beans. It kind of depends on what we have around the house. I’m sure at some point we’ve played with actual money, probably pennies.

I think the holiday symbolizes that if you have enough belief in something, it will work in the way that you need it to work. I believe Hanukkah is a chance for everybody to get together and celebrate our history with good food.”

Sami Irwin, 11th grade

“Most nights I celebrate Hanukkah with just my immediate family. However, sometimes I celebrate with extended family too. One night out of the eight we have a huge party, usually with all of my extended family on my grandpa’s side. Most of the kids on that side of the family are younger than me so I don’t really do much. I kind of just watch them play and be a supervisor to make sure they don’t get hurt. It’s mom’s cousin’s house that we go to for lighting candles.

When it comes to giving gifts at our party, we do it in a different way. Since my family is so big, one little family is assigned another little family to get gifts for. It’s sort of like secret santa in that we draw names from a hat to determine who we buy our gifts for. It switches every year and last year my family got the family that hosted the party. My grandparents, though, always give us a gift, no matter what. How many gifts I get depends on what I want, like what’s on my Hanukkah list. I remember a few years ago I got a drum set, and that was pretty expensive, so I only got a few other, smaller gifts. My favorite gift was my Pitbull cardboard cutout that I got two years ago. I put it on my Hanukkah list as a joke and my mom bought it for me and I was surprised because it wasn’t very cheap.

Obviously we always eat latkes on Hanukkah, and sometimes my dad will make matzah ball soup. My aunt always makes a cheese dish that’s really delicious. The past couple of years we’ve catered in Chick-Fil-A, which the kids love. We always have lots of desserts, for example chocolate-covered pretzels and some flavor of cake.

We don’t put up very many decorations, but I do put a light-up menorah on the windowsill. When I was little, I would go to my grandparents’ house where they had a garage full of decorations and help them decorate their house, but everyone got older and we stopped doing that.

After we get gifts, my grandpa, his sister and sometimes my mom all lead us in singing songs to get us in the Hanukkah mood. They print out all of the lyrics to a list of songs and insist we all join them in singing because my grandpa loves to sing and my mom majored in music. Some songs we sing include “I Have a Little Dreidel” and “Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah.”

We play dreidel in a bit of an untraditional way. We basically gamble. We say, “I bet this much gelt that the dreidel lands on this letter.”

I describe Hanukkah as Christmas for eight days. It is the festival of lights and celebrates that the oil lasted eight days.”

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  • T

    The Real Yuval CohenDec 11, 2023 at 4:32 pm

    This is so fiya ? ? ?

  • Y

    Yuval CohenDec 11, 2023 at 4:29 pm

    YUHHH I FW THIS?????‼️‼️