Photo: Ted Eytan
This week from December 24-January 1 marks the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah. It’s known as the festival of lights and marks the re-dedication of the Holy Temple. The story of Hanukkah stems from ancient times when the Jewish people lived under Syrian rule. The Jewish people saw their way of life and religion under threat. The temple began to be used for unclean purposes such as sacrificing pigs and worshipping the Greek god Zeus.
Mattathias the Hasmonean, a Jewish priest sparked a revolt by killing a priest who sought to make a sacrifice to Zeus in the temple. His son, Judah Maccabee later led a small guerrilla force against the much larger Syrian forces to retake the temple in Jerusalem. This reclaiming of the temple would be known as The Maccabean Revolt.
When they reclaimed the temple and began to replace the defiled altar and holy vessels, they relit the menorah which was to be kept constantly burning from evening until morning every day. However, they found that there was only enough untainted oil to burn the candle for one day. Yet by some miracle, the menorah burned for eight days until a new supply of oil was able to be made. As a result, the eight day holiday of Hanukkah was created to celebrate this event.
Photo: Dov Harrington
Modern Jews celebrate Hanukkah by lighting a menorah each evening before the eight days of Hanukkah. Starting on the first evening at sunset the left most candle is lit and each following evening a candle is added and lit until the last day of Hanukkah. Blessings are recited accompanying the lighting of the candles which thank God and remember the miracle of the oil.
Photo: Sarah and Jason
Because of the significance of oil to this holiday, fried potato pancakes called latkes and donuts called sufganiot are also eaten during this holiday.
Children also play a game with spinning tops called dreidels which contain the letters נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (He), and ש (Shin) which is an acronym for the phrase “a great miracle happened there” again remembering the miracle that Hanukkah celebrates.
However you celebrate this season, we hope your home is filled with warmth and happiness!