SEARCH BLOG: HOLIDAYS
Beginning at sundown today, our Jewish friends and neighbors begin celebrating the 8 days of Hanukkah. This from About.com:
The festival of Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah) was established to commemorate the Jewish Maccabees' military victory over the Greek-Syrians and the rededication of the Second Temple, which had been desecrated by the Greek-Syrians, to the worship of God. Thus, Hanukkah is a celebration of Jewish national survival and religious freedom...
The story of the Maccabees' military feats has been preserved in The First Book of Maccabees. In short, in response to religious persecution and oppression, Judah Maccabee and his four brothers organized a group of resistance fighters known as the Maccabees. The Maccabees, using guerilla warfare, miraculously succeeded to drive the far larger Greek-Syrian army out of Judea. The Hanukkah story proclaims the message of the prophet Zachariah: "Not by might, not by power, but by My spirit."
The purification of the Temple began on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev in the year 165 BCE. According to the Talmud, the single-days-worth of pure oil found in the Temple miraculously burnt for eight days until more pure oil could be brought.
In commemoration of these miracles, a Hanukkah Menorah (also called a Hanukkiah) is lit during each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. Lighting the Hanukkah Menorah is the central observance of the festival. One candle is lit the first night, and an additional candle is lit each successive night. Thus, on the last night of Hanukkah, all eight candles of the Hanukkiah are lit. The candles should be lit by a window or door in order to fulfill the commandment to "publicize the miracle." While lighting the candles, blessings are recited and the ancient chant Hanerot Hallalu is traditionally sung. After lighting the candles, it is a tradition to sing Maoz Tzur.
Hanukkah is a fun festival, especially for children. After lighting the Hanukkah candles together, families (and often invited guests) will eat and play games. Traditional Hanukkah food is oil-rich in commemoration of the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days. Potato pancakes (Latkas in Yiddish, Livivot in Hebrew) are a Hanukkah favorite. Israelis eat Hanukkah doughnuts called soofganiot. Dreidel (sivovon in Hebrew) is a traditional Hanukkah game, with game rules so simple that the whole family, from toddlers to grandparents can play together. The custom of giving Hanukkah gelt (money) to children has evolved into a gift-giving tradition in many Jewish families today.