Last night after dinner, still seated at the table, we had a family discussion about Hanukkah. Now, I’m not entirely familiar with the customs/traditions surrounding this Jewish holiday. Katie (my 17-year old) jumped-up and pulled a book from the bookshelf entitled “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” by Eric Kimmel.
(Photo credit Amazon)
Katie told me she claimed this book from the ‘give-away’ cart at our local public library awhile ago… she’s so like her mom! So, we read the book aloud (just like we used to read to our kids seemingly a lifetime ago).
Hanukkah starts on the Hebrew calendar date of 25 Kislev, and lasts for eight days: the coinciding secular dates for 2011: December 20-28
Many Jewish communities observe the first day of Chanukah, which marks the start of Chanukah, also known as Hanukkah or Festival of Lights. Chanukah is an eight-day Jewish observance that remembers the Jewish people’s struggle for religious freedom.
Chanukah commemorates the Jewish people’s successful rebellion against the Greeks in the Maccabean War in 162 BCE. A ritual cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple occurred after the Jewish people’s victory. It is believed that there was only enough consecrated oil to keep the lamp burning for one day but the small bottle of oil miraculously lasted for eight days ~~ that’s why Hanukkah is also referred to as the Feast of Lights or Festival of Lights for this reason.
The dreidel is a square-shaped toy that is used to play a game during the Chanukah celebrations. It is a spinning top with a different Hebrew letter inscribed in each of its four sides – the four letters: ‘nun’, ‘gimel’ ‘hay’ and ‘shin’. They form an acronym meaning “a great miracle happened here”.
The menorah, hanukiah (or chanukkiyah) is a type of candelabrum that holds eight candles to commemorate the eight days that the oil burned and a ninth candle that sits apart, known as the ‘shammes’ or shamash, or servant candle that lights the others. One candle is lit on the first night, another on the second, and so forth until all candles are lit on the last night. The candles may not be used for any other purpose, and once lit, may not be blown out. They must be allowed to burn down completely and are replaced each night.
You’re likely familiar with the delicious potato pancakes or celebratory ‘latkes’ which are eaten hot from the pan with jam, sour cream or applesauce.
In recognition of Hanukkah, I think I’ll make latkes for dinner!