Check your Hanukkah knowledge


Given the tense national mood, we could all use an injection of humor, so with that in mind, I offer a Hanukkah quiz, courtesy of my old friend “Chanukah Charlie.” The quiz is for all fans of Hanukkah, which starts Tuesday, Dec. 12, at sundown. For those who dread tests, it’s an open-book exam, so enjoy:

1. We all were taught that Hanukkah is celebrated due to a victory in 164 BCE that preserved our right to practice Judaism. It’s become such a popular holiday in the modern era, because:

A. Retailers must expand Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

B. Bubbes were desperate for another excuse to spoil their grandchildren.

C. We all needed another reason for a nosh.

D. Kids don’t get enough gifts these days.

Answer: All of the above are acceptable.

2. Out of the following, which one is a real part of the holiday, and not a myth?

A. A Hanukkah bush.

B. A Happy Holiday tree.

C. The showing of the movie, “It’s the Great Menorah, Charlie Brown.”

D. Fantastic pancakes made with love.

E. The magical delivery of gifts by a gnome-like creature called Hanukkah Harry.

Answer:  D. Latkes are an edible tribute to one of the best Hanukkah traditions.

3. The victory over the Syrian-Greeks was forged by the Maccabees, led by Judah. How long did it take them to emerge victorious and re-enter the temple after it had been desecrated?

A. Much longer than it takes Patriots coach Bill Belichick to smile at one of his news conferences.

B. Less time than it takes government contractors to fill potholes.

C. Three years.

D. Shorter than it takes bills to get through the Rhode Island and Massachusetts legislatures.

Answer: C.

4. The king of the Syrian-Greeks, Antiochus IV, prohibited the Jewish people from:

A. Eating Kosher food.

B. Praying as they saw fit.

C. Teaching Judaism to anyone, including their children.

D. Reading the Torah.

E. All of the above.

Answer: E.

5. The miracle of Hanukkah is that:

A. The Maccabees defeated a much larger military force and became the era’s superheroes.

B. A one-day’s supply of oil kept the menorah burning for eight days.

C. People developed a renewed interest in practicing their religion.

D. The temple got cleaned up quickly, and was rededicated. 

Answer: “B” is what we’re taught in Hebrew School, but they’re all miracles.

6. It’s a mitzvah to light the menorah in our homes. What’s the proper way of putting the candles in the menorah and lighting them?

A. It doesn’t matter; just light one each night until eight and the shamash candle are lit on the final night.

B. You put them in right to left, and light them left to right so the oldest candle is put in first, and the newest candle is lit first.

C. Same as B, only reversing the right and left.

Answer: B.

7. Kids from toddlers to 118 never tire of playing the dreidel game, which is a long-accepted method of off-track betting. It’s played with and on:

A. Pennies on a table or floor.

B. Dried lima beans while waiting for the latkes to cook.

C. Poker chips at Twin River or Plainridge Park Casino.

D. Any coins on the nearest flat surface.

Answer: Bet on all of them except C.

8. In the game, the winner gets the pot if the dreidel:

A. Spins into whatever happens to be cooking on the stove.

B. Rolls underneath the couch and is impossible to reach.

C. Falls into a bowl of freshly-made latke mix.

D. Lands on “gimel.”

Answer: D.


9. Which spelling of the holiday is the proper one in English?

A. C—h—a—n—u—k—a—h .

B. H—a—n—u—k—a—h .

C. C—h—a—n—u—k—a .

D. H—a—n—u—k—k—a—h.

Answer: All of them. It’s one word that no English teacher can mark you down for misspelling, although “D” is used most often in the newspaper because it’s the version accepted by the Associated Press.

10. True or false: Hanukkah falls on the same day every year.

Answer: True – and yes, it’s a trick question, because all Hebrew school graduates know that it always falls on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which will be Dec. 13 this year and Dec. 3 in 2018.


LARRY KESSLER is a freelance writer who can be reached at