The origins of Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights are an event that happened 200 years before the birth of Christ. A king named Antiochus attempted to have all Jewish persons under his reign to follow the Greek religion. Under the leadership of Judah Maccabee, there was a rebellion. After three years of fighting, the Maccabees drove the Greek soldiers away. The Maccabees wanted to rededicate the temple, but were only able to find enough oil for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted eight days; long enough to make new oil.
Hanukkah is celebrated by a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the 8-day holiday.
Some are family-based and others are communal. There are special additions to the daily prayer service, and a section is added to the blessing after meals. Hanukkah is not a “Sabbath-like” holiday, and there is no obligation to refrain from activities that are forbidden on the Sabbath, as specified in the Shulkhan Arukh. An important part of the Hanukah celebration is the menorah. This is a candleholder with eight candles and a shammash or servant candle. One candle is lit by the shammash for each of the nights of Hanukkah. After the lighting of the candles, people give gifts to one another. People sing and make merry. A popular food for Hanukah is potato pancakes, or latkes, cooked in oil in honor of the miracle.
People go to work as usual, but may leave early in order to be home to kindle the lights at nightfall. There is no religious reason for schools to be closed, although, in Israel, schools close for the whole week of Hanukkah.
Many families exchange gifts each night, and fried foods are eaten.
Whether you spell it Chanukah, Chanukkah, Hanukkah, Hanuka, or Channuka, you’re probably right. Because of the linguistic differences between English and Hebrew, there is no “correct” spelling, though depending on your priorities and taste, some are more correct than others.
Children enjoy playing the dreidel game. This is a top game played with nuts or gold-covered chocolate coins. There are four letters of the top which stand for nun, gimmel, hay, and shin and give the directions for what to give or take during the game. The letters also stand for “nes gadol hayah sham” or “a great miracle happened there.”
Sources: http://www.cstone.net/~bry-back/holidayfun/dec.html ~ http://www.mahalo.com/How_to_Spell_Hanukkah, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanukkah
Here are two videos to enjoy for the holiday:
Watch Tim Harrington of LES SAVY FAV as he celebrates Hanukkah on the mitzvah tank in soho.
This is a beautiful traditional song: “Hanukkah O Hanukkah”
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