Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 20th is the first day of Hanukkah., What is Hanukkah anyway?

Photo credit to Jillian of http://valdezquints.com/

Thanks to Jillian and a lovely lady named Amy of http://www.twistnshout.com/, I am able to bring you today's post.
Today at sun down Jewish people all over the world observe the celebration of Hanukkah.
Have you ever noticed on your calendar that the dates for the 8 day celebration of Hanukkah change from year to year and Christmas stays the same? That is because the celebration of Hanukkah like all Jewish holidays follow the "Lunar" Calendar or the cycles of the moon. It is not fixed like the celebration of Christmas.

Hanukkah is a celebration that is also known as the Festival of Lights,  the lighting of the Menorah (or candle holder) is the most visual part of the holiday.

Amy tells me that Hanukkah is a celebration the commemorates a battle between the Syrian-Greeks who battled a small army, led by a man named Judah Maccabee. This battle occurred more then 2000 years ago. When the Syrian-Greeks took over the city of Jerusalem and outlawed the Jewish faith, they destroyed the Temple. When Judah Maccabee and his small army fought off the Syrian-Greeks they reclaimed the Temple and wanted to re-dedicate the Temple to God .The word Hanukkah is a Hebrew word meaning "dedication". In order for the Jewish people to re-dedicate the Temple they needed to re-light the Temple's holy light, known as a Menorah. The holy light was supposed to burn oil all night, however when the Temple was destroyed there was very little oil left. The lamp had only enough oil to burn for one night. However a miracle occurred and that oil lasted 8 days and 8 nights until more oil could be found or produced.

To celebrate this holiday Jewish people around the world remember this miracle by lighting a Menorah. They start by lighting the Shammash (which is the larger candle in the center of the Menorah) and using it to light the candles one by one each night over the 8 days. While the candles are being lit the family members sing a blessing.

Once the candles are lit it is time for families to enjoy themselves. Traditionally families eat foods fried in oil. Some families enjoy fried potato pancakes called latkes or doughnuts that are cooked in oil.

Children are also traditionally given small gifts or money during the celebration of Hanukkah.
Amy tells me when her children were small they would have a hunt to find their gifts around the house, before opening and enjoying them.

A fun game enjoyed by many children is the dreidel game. This game consists of a spinning top that has Hebrew letters on each side that stand for "a great miracle happened there." Children take turns spinning the dreidle singing the song and winning "gelt" (chocolate coins).

I want to thank Jillian for the use of her photo for the top of the post and for Amy for helping me to understand this wonderful holiday. If Hanukkah is a holiday you and your family celebrate I hope you have a truly enjoyable time. If you do not celebrate Hanukkah, I hope that you may have learned something you did not  know in today's post.  By misidentifying  the traditions of other cultures, and learning about them we become better people. It is important to realize that all people want to be accepted for who they are and what they believe. Think about this if you will. Would you rather be accepted for who you are or tolerated for what you believe. Accepting and celebrating our differences this holiday season and every day, I thank you for reading today's post. As always I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment here or email me at karenmowen@gmail.com


  1. So there is a celebration for all 8 or 9 days? Or is just lighting the candle as Christians do every Sunday for 4 Sundays before Christmas as part of the Advent ritual. Do kids go to school during Hanukkah? How about work for the adults? Which Hanukkah day is the one most Jewish families take off and do the big family get together--the one that falls on the Shabbos that is encased, or the last day or the first day? Which day is the one that the bigger gifts are usually given?

  2. @Anonymous, I celebrate Hanukkah. It lasts 8 days, and you light one more candle each night than the night before. I go to school during Hanukkah, but somewhere might skip a few days.

  3. @Priya, thank you so much for answering these questions for us and letting us know! Happy Hanukkah Pirya!