Sunday, December 23, 2012

You say Chanukah, Chanukkah or Chanuka, I say Hanukkah!

As you probably know if you've been reading my posts, I was raised by a Jewish father and a Gentile mother.  Although Christmas was the holiday celebrated in our home, we always had a Menorah on the mantle (when we had a mantle) to commemorate my Dad's heritage.  I can't say we went through the appropriate steps with the candles and all, but even though Dad is gone, the menorah still stands proudly wherever my mother lives.

So, owing to my ignorance, I had to resort to finding a website which explained this at a child's level.  The following is taken from that website, almost verbatim, with no intention to plagiarize but rather educate those who like me, have no clue of the true meaning.  It only took my 60 years, but hey...!  By the way, the holiday is also called the Festival of Lights.

History of the Holiday:  In 165 B.C.E., the Jewish Maccabees managed to drive the Syrian army out of Jerusalem and reclaim their temple. The temple then had to be rededicated, since the Greek-influenced Syrians had taken it over as a temple to Zeus.

The Menorah: When the Jews prepared to rededicate their temple by relighting the "eternal flame," after driving out their oppressors, they had just enough consecrated oil to burn for one day, but the oil miraculously lasted for eight days until new oil arrived to fuel the flame. This is why Jewish families light candles or burn oil in a menorah for the eight days of Hanukkah, adding one candle each day.

Timing of the Holiday:  Hanukkah is celebrated on the 25th day of the Jewish calendar month of Kislev ' this usually, but not always, falls in December. Show your children a Jewish calendar, and explain to them why Hanukkah falls on a different day every year. 

The Dreidel: The dreidel is a spinning toy with four Hebrew letters, one on each side. The letters - shin, hey, gimel and nun - are the first four letters of the Hebrew words "A Great Miracle Happened Here." There are many variations of the dreidel game, but it is basically a game of chance. 

Hanukkah Foods:  Traditionally, Jewish families eat foods that are fried in oil at Hanukkah, since oil is such an important part of the holiday's history. In most families, this means potato latkes ' crispy potato pancakes ' and other fried foods.

Gifts: Make a Hanukkah box for younger children. A Hanukkah box contains one small gift for each of the eight days of the holiday, and is one way that many families choose to commemorate the eight-day miracle of the oil in a way that children can appreciate and understand.

Trust me...there is much more to the ritual...when to light the candles, who should have the honor, how long they should burn, where the menorah should be placed.  If you want to know more, I suggest you visit Wikipedia for more answers.  I'm proud that I finally learned a little more about my ancestry.  I have a lot of Jewish relatives, and I wish each of them a happy, happy Hanukkah, and to anyone who celebrates the holiday.

1 comment:

Caroline Clemmons said...

Ginger, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

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