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Monday, December 6, 2010

Eight Crazy Nights

This is a guest post from Small Town Mommy, about Hanukkah. Thank you, Anne! I am doing Christmas around the world with my kids, and would love to have more guest bloggers if anyone is interested

Eight Crazy Nights

Hanukkah, also known as the festival of lights, is an 8-day celebration in the Jewish faith. Hanukkah is a joyous time, dedicated to prayer and gifts along with the lighting of candles and fried food.

The first question, of course, is how to spell it. You have probably seen Hanukkah, Chanukah, or Chanukkah. Which is correct? Technically, all 3 can be used. Since the name Hanukkah is based upon a Hebrew word, some letters just don’t translate to English so people have made it up as they went along.

Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the revolt against the Syrian-Greek empire. At the time, the government oppressed those who practiced the Jewish faith, with worship forbidden and many of the Jewish laws made illegal. A group called the Maccabees were driven from Jerusalem but were able to create an army and return to reclaim it. After their return, the Holy Temple was rebuilt and the eternal flame, which was supposed to always burn, was lit. The builders discovered that they only had enough oil for the eternal flame to burn for one night. While new oil was being pressed, prepared and consecrated, miraculously, the flame was able to burn for 8 nights from just one day’s worth of oil.

Current Celebration
The current celebration represents the 8 days the eternal flame burned. It takes place for eight consecutive evenings with a prayer ceremony and candles in a 9-branch holder called a Menorah. Each evening, an additional candle is lit along with the Shamash (the 9th candle), which is there for religious reasons as well as used to ignite the Hanukkah candles.
Along with the candle ceremony, there are other Hanukkah traditions that are more recent. Like most holidays, there are traditional food items that are significant for the holiday. We always had brisket for Hanukkah but I believe that was more a function of the host. Latkes (potato pancakes) cooked in olive oil are eaten in many families to symbolize the oil that lasted for 8 nights. In addition, donuts, fritters or other fried pastries are often eaten for dessert for the same reason.

Kids play dreidel, a Hanukkah game involving a special top with Hebrew letters and Hanukkah geld, which can be chocolate coins, real money, raisins or other small items (my kids always prefer the chocolate coins). More recently, gifts have been added to the Hanukkah tradition, with a small gift given to children for each of the 8 nights of celebration.

Hanukkah has become more familiar to many from different faiths, thanks to the media. Adam Sandler wrote “The Chanukah Song” {} (which is where the title for this post came from). The Maccabeats have been getting quite a bit of publicity this year for their recent song “
Candlelight” {}. This, along with the chronological closeness to Christmas has made Hannukah one of the best known religious holidays in the Jewish faith.


Melissa said...

Thank you Anne, for the awesome post. The Adam Sandler song is one of my favorites, makes me chuckle every time.

Chana said...

If you enjoyed this video/ the Maccabeats, you should definitely check out I Light It by NCSY, a hilarious Chanukah-themed parody of Justin Bieber, Kanye West and Enrique Iglesias. Link here:

Anne said...

Melissa, you know I would do anything for you :). I think I made clear in my recent blog post how much I would do for a friend. This was an easy request in comparison.

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