A Channukah primer for goyim.

Real Estate Agent with Jameson Sotheby's International Realty

Many of y'all are confused, when it comes to Channukah, and you don't know what to say, nor how to react to your Jewish friends and colleagues.  So, as a public service, I'm offering some of these potential questions/responses for goyim (here's your first lesson... "goyim" is a word we Jews use to refer to, literally, anyone else other than Jews.  It's Yiddish for "nations"... and it really means "all of the rest of you"!)

  • When does Channukah begin?
    Well, this year, Channukah beings tonight (December 12).  And as with all Jewish holidays, it begins at sundown.  That's so we don't have to refer to our fancy watches, world-wide, to determine when the holiday begins.  All over the world, it begins when the sun sets.
  • Why doesn't Channukah start on December 12th every year?
    Great question.  Jewish holidays are not based on the Roman calendar (don't get me started on how Jews feel about the Romans), they follow the lunar calendar.  Since the lunar calendar doesn't line-up, the date jumps around year-to-year.  Some years, Channukah is close to Christmas, and every now and then Channukah can be super early, or super late. 
  • How do you spell this holiday?  I see it spelled differently all over the place?
    Yeah... so Channukah is actually spelled in Hebrew.  And there is no truly accepted transliteration of the word into English.  Everyone has their own version.  Hanukah, Hannukah, Hannaka, Channuka, Channukah, Chanuka... they're all good.
  • Do y'all go to Church for Channukah?
    Well, this hear is a complicated one.  We don't go to Church at all.  Jews attend Temple, or Synagogue.  And even though, here in the US, Channukah is kind of a big deal, and has been blown up to try to compete with Christmas (and seriously fails)... Channukah is really a very minor holiday commemorating winning a military battle over enormous odds against a Roman army (y'a see, those Romans again). So we don't typically go to Temple for Channukah.
  • Where do y'all go to get your Channukah Bush?
    Yeah, we don't.  There just ain't no such thing as a Channukah Bush.  Any Jewish family that tells you otherwise, is just trying to "fit in".
  • Does Channukah Chaim, or Hannuka Harry come down your chimneys?
    Oddly enough I do know a couple of families who do the CC or HH thing.  I find it kinda cute, but it's not a widely accepted practice.  But either way, there ain't no way any self-respecting Chaim/Harry would be sliding down a chimney.  Oy!  They'd get all dirty, and schmutzy... let's use the front door, right?
  • Do you get offended if we say "Merry Christmas" to you?
    No.  We're delighted to be wished Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwaanza, Feliz Navidad or whatever pleasantry you'd like to use.  We may respond with a Happy Holidays, or Happy Channukah right back atcha.
  • What do you call that candelabra you light?
    Technically, the one used for Channukah is called a Channukiah (Cha-noo-keee-yah!).  But most Jews just call it by it's generic name which is a Menorah.  A Channukiah is very specific.  It has places for nine candles.  A generic Menorah usually has an even number.
  • Do you eat Chinese food for Channukah?
    No.  Traditionally Channukah includes fried foods... (suddenly sounds more appealing, doesn't it?).  So in Israel, they often eat fried doughnuts (soof-gan-i-ot), but here in the states we tend to eat Latkes... fried potato pancakes. 
  • Why am I thinking y'all eat Chinese food around the holidays?
    You're probably thinking about Christmas.  Since we Jews don't celebrate Christmas (that's right...we don't.) On Christmas day we find ourselves with nothing to do.  Most stores are closed, and the only things we can find to do are see a movie, and go to a Chinese restaurant.

There... so I hope that helps.  Chappy Channukah, y'all!

Posted by

 ALAN MAY, Realtor®   
Specializing in Evanston Real Estate and North Shore Real Estate

Jameson Sotheby's International Realty, 2934 Central Street, Evanston, IL 60201
Office: 847.869.7300      Cell: 847.924.3313      Email: Almay@aol.com

Evanston Real Estate & North Shore Real Estate
Licensed in Illinois



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JL Boney, III
Coldwell Banker - Columbia, SC
Columbia, SC Real Estate

I have heard the Adam Sandler song, but this seems like a much better reference guide to me. Hope all is well with you Alan.

Dec 12, 2017 03:56 PM #6
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Dec 16, 2017 06:15 PM #7
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

I am so glad that Kathy Streib featured this post - I really enjoyed reading it  - and happy Hannukah to you! 

Dec 17, 2017 04:45 AM #8
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Alan. My best firend is Jewish and a bit sarcastic. I'm going to forward this to him for a good laugh. He will enjoy it. Well put! Enjoy your day!

Dec 17, 2017 04:47 AM #9
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

Love it Alan.  Though I must confess to spilling my (kosher) coffee when I read "Channukah Chaim and Hannuka Harry".  Never heard of that before.

Dec 17, 2017 05:23 AM #10
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good morning Alan May,

Not sure how I missed this post this week so I'm glad that Kathy Streib featured it in her "Ah-ha" moments for the week. Happy Hanukkah Alan. Loved your explanation of customs and what is real and not.

Dec 17, 2017 05:54 AM #11
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

You filled in quite a few blanks for me on this one, Alan. Happy Hanukkah! Don't you get 8 days of gifts too?  That one always intrigued me as a kid. ;) 

Dec 17, 2017 06:52 AM #12
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

I can see why Kathy chose to highlight your post this week!  Great job!

Dec 17, 2017 07:05 AM #13
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Alan. This is excellent and should be featured. Whatever happens your descriptions are right on. Well done.

Dec 17, 2017 07:32 AM #14
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

Wow, you covered it all. Incredibly well done informational post. Happy Chanukah!

Dec 17, 2017 09:21 AM #15
Anthony Kirlew
Group 46:10 Network @ eXp Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Helping You Make Fiscally Sound Choices

Thanks Alan May for this post. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood (in Rockville MD) and learned to appreciate many amazing Jewish food traditions.

Wishing you a Happy Channukah and in that spirit, I'd love to share with you my favorite Channukah song - 8 Candles by Dave Koz 


Dec 17, 2017 09:31 AM #16
Lynn B. Friedman
Atlanta Homes ODAT Realty Call/Text 404-939-2727 Buckhead - Midtown - Westside -- and more ... - Atlanta, GA
Concierge Service for Our Atlanta Sellers & Buyers

Alan May 
Great summary. Going to my Channukkahh post to add a link to yours!
All the best - Lynn

Dec 17, 2017 12:13 PM #17
Brian L. Sirota, Esq.
Bristar Realty (Realtor/Attorney) - Orange, CA
For Solutions: (714) 501-7660

I totally enjoyed this post written with the inimitable Alan May humor.

Happy Hanukkah to you and ya'll!

Dec 17, 2017 12:47 PM #18
Hannah Williams
Re/Max Eastern inc. - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-953-8818

Happy Hanukkah --I always ask Siri  how to spell it aren't  I awful

Dec 17, 2017 01:14 PM #19
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude


I love your humor and style of writing, as well as the education. I found that I actually knew a bit of this already.


Dec 17, 2017 01:58 PM #20
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
The House Kat

Haha, well, thank you for the overview of Channakah- being a member of the goyim group, or GG for short, this was quite helpful.

Dec 17, 2017 04:03 PM #21
Blatt + Cutino
Keller Williams Coastal Estates - Monterey, CA
Broker-Associate 831/206-8070*Call today*

Thanks for the clarification.  It is still amazing to me that people can be so ignorant when it comes to traditions. Chag Sameach

Dec 18, 2017 07:23 AM #22
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

I learned a lot lot from your post. I can’t wait to discuss what I learned with my Jewish friend tomorrow. Thank you for sharing

Dec 18, 2017 12:04 PM #23
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%
RE/MAX Gold - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

I wish everybody would decide on how to spell Hannukah and just stick with one spelling that I can remember. LOL.

My husband doesn't care, either. But I love those latkes.

Dec 18, 2017 09:04 PM #24
Jon Kolsky
Kolsky Realty & Management - Long Beach, CA
Licensed California Real Estate Broker

Alan May ~ nice summation and spot on! Now... about the goy? I hope they know the term "goyim" is not derogatory and should not be confused with the term "Gentiles"  

Dec 19, 2017 10:22 AM #25
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