No matter how you spell it, Chanukah, Hannukah, Hanuka, etc., the definition remains the same; dedication. And, for centuries Jews all over the world, have been telling and retelling the story …
No matter how you spell it, Chanukah, Hannukah, Hanuka, etc., the definition remains the same; dedication. And, for centuries Jews all over the world, have been telling and retelling the story of Chanukah and how Judah Maccabee and the Jews fought the Syrian Army after the destruction of the Holy Temple in 165 BC.
The Jews were dedicated to rebuilding the Holy Temple. The story is told, after the Maccabees drove out the Syrians, there was only a small amount of oil left to rekindle the lamp. By a miracle, the oil lasted for eight days, which allowed the Jews time to cultivate more oil.
Today, most Jews would consider the Maccabees to be heroes and defenders of Judaism.
Chanukah celebrates freedom from oppression. It also supports and celebrates freedom of religious expression.
For most Jews it is a celebration to be spent with family, especially children.
Children play games of dreidel. A four sided spinning top, with Hebrew letters on each side. The letters represent the message "A great miracle happened there". Each letter gives a different instruction to the game; Put one in, take one out, take it all or do nothing. Usually, it is played with pennies, or individual wrapped pieces of candy.
Another tradition, is to eat foods fried in oil, to represent the miracle of the oil lasting. Latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts) are the most popular treats. The biggest debate over time has been the toppings on the latke: sour cream or applesauce.
Because Chanukah usually falls within days of Christmas it has taken on a more secular tone throughout history.
It is much easier to find decorations, greeting cards, gift wrap, etc. to help with celebrations.
While, there is no Santa Claus or Christmas tree, for the children to get excited about, over time the idea of a Chanukah Harry and a Chanukah bush have entered the mainstream. Also, there are now movies, TV specials and episodes as well as songs on the radio to help spread the magic and story of Chanukah.
In keeping with the Christmas aspect, gifts are aplenty during Chanukah. After the menorah is lit, and blessings said, children get to open one or two gifts each night. And, while there are eight nights of Chanukah, the piles of gifts can be steep.
In the United States, Chanukah has become a widely recognized and celebrated holiday. There is the Natiuonal Menorah Lighting in Washington D.C.
In the US especially, Hanukkah has become a widely recognized holiday. As well as lighting the National Menorah in Washington DC, there is a menorah lighting at the Rhode Island State House, and most cities and towns have a ceremony in their city halls.
An interesting fact about Chanukkah; there is no mention of the Festival in the Old Testament. While, the events themselves took place after the Torah was written, it is actually cited in the New Testament, when Jesus attended a "Feast of Dedication." In truth, it is not a holiday at all, but in fact a festival, the Festival of Lights.
This year, Chanukah started on Sunday, November 29 and ends Monday, December 6.
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