The lights have been dimmed in preparation for this special night. Susan Silberman, 40 of Cornelius, gathers her family for their nightly Hanukkah ritual.
Her husband Bruce, helps Susan hold sons Ryder, 3, and Cage, 5, so that they can see the menorah that is set on the fireplace. The blessings are sung as they light the Hanukkah candles.
Hanukkah, which is sometimes referred to as the festival of lights, celebrates the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabees, a small Jewish army, were victorious over the larger Syrian army.
According to the story, after reclaiming the temple, the Maccabees found only one vat of oil, enough to light the menorah for only one day. The miracle in the story is that the oil burned brightly for eight days, allowing them to restore the Temple to its former glory.
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On the first night, an extra blessing called the Shehecheyanu is said, which is a favorite blessing for Cage and Ryder. The English translation of the prayer is "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion."
Each night, one more candle is lit until all eight are burning together on the last night.
The Silberman family has many traditions that they look forward to each year on Hanukkah.
On each of the eight nights of the holiday, Cage and Ryder are given a present to open. They start with smaller gifts on the first night and build up to more significant gifts throughout the week.
Susan loves the tradition of spreading the gifts out over an eight-day period.
"It builds anticipation when the kids see the gifts on the table," she said.
They appreciate each gift by only opening one each day.
Although opening gifts is fun for the whole family, it is not the focus of the holiday.
Cage and Ryder also love playing with the dreidel that Cage made in Sunday school last year. The dreidel, or four-sided top, has four Hebrew letters on it: the Nun, Gimel, Hei and Shin. Together they create the phrase Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which means "a great miracle happened here."
Even though they are not old enough to understand all of the rules of the dreidel game, they have fun identifying the Hebrew letters that are inscribed on it and spinning it like a top.
When they are done playing, Cage and Ryder settle in on the couch with their parents to read their Hanukkah books, a favorite family pastime.
Hanukkah would not be complete without a delicious meal with the family.
Susan always invites her brother and his family who live in Charlotte to join them for one evening. The meal includes traditional latkes or potato pancakes that are fried in oil, which is also a symbol of the oil that burned for eight days.
In addition to dinner with her family, the Silberman's attend the annual Hanukkah party at Lake Norman Jewish Congregation.
The congregation will have a special dinner together, followed by performances from the religious school that Cage and Ryder attend.
The kids can make Hanukkah crafts while the parents chat together. Spending time with friends and loved ones is what makes their holiday traditions even more special.
Hanukkah begins at sundown on Dec. 11 this year.
Correction: The Lake Norman News incorrectly identified the university Steve Schattner attended in the Nov. 25 Cornelius column. Schattner graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1993.