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Even though America's 4.3 million Jews have integrated in to American Culture they have always retained their identity by celebrating their religious festivals and adhering to their traditions and religious gift giving customs.
Most Jewish religious holidays are characterized by prayer services at the synagogue, feasting, fasting with the family. Most of the religious occasions reinforce the Jewish culture, tradition, and customs in the family even when it comes to consumption of food.
Hanukkah, the "Festival of Lights", lasts for eight days and nights. On this day the children are traditionally gifted money in form of coins or gelts by their parents and relatives.
In these modern times the traditional culture and customs have expanded gift giving to chocolate gelts for Dreidel games. Gifting of Menorah - the candlestick stand and Dreidels among Jews is popular.
Rosh Hashanah occurs between mid September and October. It is characterized by prayers and the blowing of the Shofar a trumpet made from a ram's horn. Celebrants wear fine clothing and gather for festive meals which include apples and honey, to symbolize a "sweet new year".
Sweet food items such as honey are appropriate gifts during this Jewish religious occasion, as sweet items are eating during Rosh Hashanah in hope of a sweet year ahead.
But children according to the tradition receive new clothes as gifts. Modern Jewish culture permits gifts which can include gift baskets of wines, fruits , dried fruits and honey.
Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Pesach (Passover) are the Jewish high holidays of which Yom Kippur, one of the holiest, is the Jewish day of repentance, atonement and reconciliation. It is commemorated with a 25-hour fast and intensive prayer.
A large festival meal is eaten before the fast and traditional foods consumed include kreplach and rice. Since Yom Kippur is a solemn festival in keeping with the tradition and culture people do not indulge in gifting on this occasion.
Sukkot symbolizes sukkah a temporary dwelling place. It is a harvest festival commemorating the booths in which the Israelites resided during their 40 years in the wilderness. It lasts for 8 or 9 days.
The central symbol of Sukkot is the sukkah, a temporary dwelling place which is erected in the courtyard and it is also decorated.
Jewish men live in the sukkah during the duration of the festival. Sukkah gifting includes Sukkah boxes with permitted kosher food items and decorations, arranged fruit baskets etc.
Written by: Grace Nancy