Before starting this article I really didn’t know as much about Hanukkah as I thought. To me it was another version of our Christmas. I was wrong.
In the second century B.C. Jerusalem was under the control of Antiochus the Greek King of Syria. During that time Jews were forced by law to stop practicing their own religion and made to worship Greek Gods. The Holy Temple was dedicated to Zeus and an idol of him was placed inside. Sacrifices were made in honor of their Gods in the temple and to the Jewish people that was very disrespectful.
The people who refused to obey their laws were killed. However, some were able to escape and hide out in the mountains. In one village the soldiers came to force the High Priest to sacrifice a pig to the Gods but he refused. When another villager offered to take his place the Priest was angered. He took a sword and killed the man and the soldiers. The Priest and his family went to live in the mountains to be safe.
The rebel people living in the mountains started attacking soldiers when possible. Eventually, they were able to defeat them and take back their Holy Temple and worship freely again.
Upon entering the temple they found it in a mess. They went to work cleaning it up and found one container of oil to light the temples Menorah for one day and night. It takes eight days to make oil for the temples light. Amazingly the Menorah stayed lit for eight days and nights while they prepared new oil.
Hanukkah is a Hebrew word meaning “dedication”. The Jewish people rededicated the temple to their faith and every year Hanukkah reminds them of a very important part of history. The celebration lasts for eight days and nights because of the miracle of the Menorah in the temple staying lit for the eight days on only one days worth of oil.
Hanukkah begins on the 25Th of Kislev on the Hebrew calender. Usually it is in December but may also be in the end of November.
Lighting the Menorah is a very important part of the holiday. The Menorah is a nine branched candelabrum. It may also be called a Chanukiah or a Hanukkiyot. It is not supposed to be lit until all family members are present. When lit it should burn for at least a half hour after dark and not be used for any other purpose other than to publicize the miracle of the holiday. On Sabbat, the candles must be lit before sundown. On the first night two candles are set. The shammash is placed at a separate level and a single candle in the right most holder. Then three prayers are recited. On the second trough the eight nights candles are placed always right to left one a night but always lit left to right.
Festivities the family participate in are eating Latkes (potato cakes), giving gifts, playing with dreidels. Originally Latkes were made out of cheese but now the pancakes can be made out of anything the favorite is potato.
Gifts are given each night and can be anything like toys and money. Hanukkah Gelt is given in the form of savings bonds, checks, cash or even chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. This tradition began when the first Jewish coins were made. They were stamped with a cornucopia on it as a symbol of the prosperity of the country.
A favorite game of the children’s is a game of chance played with a dreidel. A dreidel is a four-sided top like toy.
Because Hanukkah was a celebration of a war victory it was not immediately celebrated by many Jewish people. It has become a widely beloved Jewish celebration with a powerful history.