Culture

12 Items Used for Jewish Holidays and Celebrations

The traditions and practices of Jewish people involve them using a wide range of items, often referred to as Judaica. Basically, they are ritual items. A lot of individuals like using or collecting these ornamental objects, which allow them to honor the entire concept of hiddur mitzvah. If you are interested in learning more about the items used for Jewish holidays and celebrations, this article might help you learn what the objects are, as well as when and how Jewish families use them. Keep in mind that you can buy most of the items listed below in almost all Judaica shops, as well as from online retail shops. Let’s take a closer look at the list:

1. Havdalah Candles

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These candles are totally different from the ones used in other religions – they are braided and they feature multiple wicks. Havdalah means “separation” and it symbolizes the transitional period from the end of Sabbath and the start of a new week. They come in a wide range of colors, however, the most popular color combinations are blue and white, as well as red and white.

2. Menorah or Hannukiyah

The Hannukkah menorah is a candle holder featuring 9-stems used to hold 8 candles and 1 shamash candle which is the “helper candle” used specifically for that holiday. Although it looks quite similar to the menorahs used in Jerusalem temples, however, those hold only seven candles. This menorah represents the “miracle” that is the staple of the holiday. If you do not know what happened, the story goes like this – the mysterious thing occurred when oil that was meant to last for only 1 day burned for 8 days straight. That is why this candleholder has 8 primary stems.

3. Mezuzah

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A mezuzah is a small crate that contains paragraphs from the Books of Moses. The paragraphs are all handwritten on paper. It is usually positioned on the right side of the door used for entering a home. The crate often features the letter, Shin. The tradition of placing the box derives from the Torah, so, most Jewish families have one in their homes.

4. Seder Plates

If you will attend a Passover dinner, you will be able to see these plates on the dining room table. The plates usually hold 4 to 5 objects that represent a part of the holiday theme. Now, families will not place objects, but food on it. The food placed is might be different for every family, however, there are five foods that are often placed – a shank bone, egg, bitter herbs, vegetables, a haroset.

5. A Spice Box

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These spice box sets are usually made from silver and people use them for holding sweet, fragrant spices. In their language, the spices are named besamim and during the service that symbolizing the end of Sabbat, individuals smell the spices. Cloves are what most people opt for, however, some communities might use other plants as well.

6. Tallit Robes

These robes are manufactured from wool. They are traditional men garments that are specifically used during prayers, however, in some communities, women are allowed to wear the robes, mostly as a clothing choice. Tallit can be found, provided, and borrowed from a church, but, most individuals love to have one or several at their homes. If you want to see what tallit options there are, check out jewish.shop.

7. Tzitzit

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These items are tassels which are attached to the corners of the, previously mentioned, tallit. Some Jewish men prefer to place them on their undergarments that are called tzitzit, and are more commonly known as tallit katan. Like a tallit, men usually attach them to their robe, and the tradition originated from their Transcript.

8. Kippah

It is a cap worn for Jewish traditional celebrations, although some Jewish people choose to keep the kippah on during an entire day. In the past, the caps were only reserved for men, however, nowadays, you can also see women wearing the caps as well. They come in a wide range of shapes, colors, designs, and sizes, but, most people opt for wearing a brown, black, or gray kippah.

9. Matzah Cover

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Back to the Passover dinner traditions, matzah is a cloth used for covering the bread made specifically for the occasion. It is usually white, and you can also find different ones featuring various symbols, letters, and decorations. Matzah represents the time when Jews had to leave Egypt in a hurry, which means that the bread did not have time to rise. It also commemorates the first seder meal.

10. Torah Scrolls

These scrolls reference the Five Books of Moses. Jewish people also know it under the names Chumash or Pentateuch. The references are all handwritten and are read out loud during holiday celebrations, praying, and on Sabbath. Now, in some communities, the scrolls are connected to two rolls made from wood, it is covered with ornamental velvet, and some people choose to top it with a silver decorative piece called rimonim. In other communities, they choose to place it in a glass casing.

11. Challah Covers

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Similarly to the Matzah cover, an opaque cloth is usually created from decorated velvet, however, other materials can be made for manufacturing it as well. During Sabbath dinners, the cloth is placed on top of the bread which can only be uncovered when the head of the family says the blessing over red wine.

12. Dreidel

Now, this one is perfect for children. This toy features the letters Nun, Shin, Hey, and Gimmel. They create an abbreviation for the expression “A great miracle happened there”, however, in some Israeli toy versions, “there” is replaced with “here”. This is the most common toy kids enjoy playing with during this holiday celebration.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are various objects used for making Jewish holidays even more meaningful and special. Hence, if you need to go to a Passover dinner or if you are going to attend any other holiday, any item from this list will make a good present for your hosts and their families.

6 Incredible Traditions That Only Welsh Folks Can Understand

The western part of Britain is occupied by a country called Wales. Most people know it from the title of the heir apparent of the British throne, who is traditionally named Prince of Wales. The tradition dates back to 1301 when Edward I proclaimed his son, the first English Prince of Wales. He did it after defeating and killing Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last native Prince of Wales, in the Battle of Orwin Bridge in 1282.

It marked the end of Wales as an independent country. Ever since, each heir apparent was invested as Prince of Wales. The current holder of the title, Prince Charles, was invested in 1969. He spent three months in Wales prior to the event, studying the language, customs, and culture. During the ceremony, he gave a speech and answered questions in both English and Welsh, a gesture that made him highly popular among Welsh.

Wales is a small country, with an area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq. mi) and about 3.1 million people. Throughout its history, it has been dominated by its more powerful neighbors to the east, the English. However, in recent decades, there has been a strong revival movement, aiming at bringing back as many traditional Welsh customs as possible. Even welsh language has been brought back from the edge of extinction. Today, more than 700,000 people use it throughout the United Kingdom.

The revival movement has brought back many interesting Welsh traditions. Some of them are common knowledge. Others are peculiar and indigenous to Wales. Despite being a popular tourist destination, not all of them are well-known outside the country. Below, we have listed six of them that essential for anyone visiting this beautiful corner of Britain.

Celebrating Rugby

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For centuries, Wales has been dominated by England in every sense of the world, except one. Rugby. Sure, they can lose a game or two, but on the field, they have an equal chance of winning, and that is something Welsh people aren’t accustomed to when confronting English. Perhaps the legendary rugby player Phil Bennett best said in his famous pre-game pep talk to his team: “Look what these bastards have done to Wales. They’ve taken our coal, our water, our steel. They buy our homes and live in them for a fortnight every year. What have they given us? Absolutely nothing. We’ve been exploited, raped, controlled, and punished by the English – and that’s who you are playing this afternoon.”

Don’t call the British

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Technically speaking, Welsh are British, being a part of Great Britain and all. However, nobody asked them when Great Britain was formed, and they heartily dislike it. Welsh tend to think of the British as just another name for English and reject any notion of it. At best, Welsh will frown at you if you call them British, or you may even get a stern talking to. At worst… Well, let’s not go there. Just don’t call them British.

Saint David’s Day

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Saint David is the patron saint of Welsh. He was from an aristocratic family from south Wales, and he lived in the 6th century. Saint David is canonized by Pope Callixtus II in the 12th century and is celebrated on March 1, the date of his death. It is one of the biggest holidays in Wales, with almost all cities and towns organizing parades. Traditional outfits, including shawls, red cloaks, striped flannel, and black hats, can be seen everywhere.

Another important part is flowers, namely daffodils. Everybody is carrying them as a part of the celebration. That is why Saint David’s day is perfect for sending your Welsh friends some flowers through abcFlora if you can’t join them for this special day. If you want to try some traditional Welsh cuisine, this is probably the best day for it, as almost every restaurant will serve Welsh rarebit, cawl, and roast lamb.

Eisteddfod

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Eisteddfod is one of the oldest Welsh traditions. The origins of eisteddfod are somewhat disputed, but some scholars suggest that it has its roots in Celtic bardic tradition. What is known that the first Eisteddfod was held in 1176, on the court of Rhys ap Gruffydd? In essence, it is a festival of poetry, music, literature, and performance. The winners in each category receive prizes.

For instance, on eisteddfod held in Caerwys in 1568, the best harpist won a small silver harp, the best fiddler a small silver crwth, the best singer a silver tongue, and the best poet a tiny silver chair. Today, there are several eisteddfods held annually in various parts of Wales. The most important one is the National Eisteddfod of Wales. It is the largest festival of competitive music and poetry in Europe, with around 150,000 visitors each year.

No Sheep Jokes

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The Welshmen have heard everyone in existence. There isn’t a sheep joke you can tell that will make them smile. It is true that there is probably more sheep than people in Wales and that a large portion of the country’s industry is based on sheep and sheep products.

And the national cuisine is largely dependent on lamb, sheep cheese, and other sheep-related food. Still, after centuries of hearing jokes about sheep, enough is enough. Telling a sheep joke is probably the fastest way to become unpopular in the company of Welshmen. Well, that and calling them British or, God forbid, English.

Don’t Complain About the Rain

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Like in most of Britain, it rains a lot in Wales. Snowdonia, for example, has 270 wet days a year. On average, it gets more than 3 meters of rainfall annually. That is a lot of rain by anyone’s standards. The reason for this is the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean. Jet streams bring in wet weather from the west, which gets dumped over Wales. So, for the people who live in Wales, rain is a fact of life.

It can’t be fought or defeated, so you might as well get used to it. It is common to see people riding bikes in the rain or waiting in lines during a downpour. Fortunately, an umbrella can always be found if you were careless enough to go out without one. Just ask in any shop or a pub, and you will be provided with one.