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Thursday, 10 December 2009
“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” – Gautama Buddha
The festival of the Hanukkah is one of the most popular and joyous of the Jewish festivals. In 2009 it begins at sundown on Friday December 11and is an eight-day holiday both in and outside of Israel. It commemorates the rededication of the Temple in 164 BC, after the armies of Judas Maccabaeus (the “Hammer”) had routed the forces of Antiochus IV. On that occasion, there was a miraculous relighting of the perpetual light in the Temple in Jerusalem. The ritual oil that kept the light burning had run out and only enough was left for one day. However, miraculously, the light kept burning for eight days.
To commemorate that event, candles are lit in synagogues and homes. The menorah is the special candelabrum used for this ritual. One candle is lit every night in each of the seven nights of the festival. While the Hanukkah lights are burning parties are held, games are played, gifts are exchanged and various other entertainments and plays are featured. This is as close to Christmas as the Jewish faith gets! Tradition limits work only during the time that the Hanukkah candles are lit.
According to Jewish law, Hanukkah is one of the less important Jewish holidays. However, Hanukkah has become much more popular in modern practice because of its proximity to Christmas. In more liberal Jewish households, this holiday has absorbed many of the Christmas traditions – for example, exchange of gifts, decoration of the house, special family dinners, etc. Many parents hope that by making Hanukkah extra special their children won't feel left out of all the Christmas festivities going on around them.
Hanukkah falls on the twenty-fifth day of the Jewish month of Kislev. Since the Jewish calendar is lunar based, every year the first day of Hanukkah falls on a different day – usually sometime between late November and late December. Every community has its unique Hanukkah traditions, but there are some traditions that are almost universally practiced. They are: Lighting the hanukkiyah, spinning the dreidel and eating fried foods.
Lighting the hanukkiyah: Every year it is customary to commemorate the miracle of the Hanukkah oil by lighting candles on a hanukkiyah. The hanukkiyah is lit every night for eight nights.
Spinning the dreidel: A popular Hanukkah game is spinning the dreidel, which is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters written on each side. Gelt, which are chocolate coins covered with tin foil, are part of this game.
Eating fried foods: Because Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes and sufganiyot during the holiday. Latkes are pancakes made out of potatoes and onions, which are fried in oil and then served with applesauce. Sufganiyot (singular: sufganiyah) are jam-filled donuts that are fried and sometimes dusted with confectioners’ sugar before eating.
Hanukkah |ˈ kh änəkə; ˈhänəkə| (also Chanukah) noun
a lesser Jewish festival, lasting eight days from the 25th day of Kislev (in December) and commemorating the rededication of the Temple in 165 bc by the Maccabees after its desecration by the Syrians. It is marked by the successive kindling of eight lights. ORIGIN from Hebrew ḥănukkāh ‘consecration.’
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