by EMILY BEZERRA Social Media Coordinator
There is an abundance of Christmas cheer in the air, but there is something we are forgetting about – Hanukkah! Also known as the festival of lights, Hanukkah is an important holiday with a lot of history behind it.
This year, Hanukkah began Saturday, December 8 and will end Sunday, December 16. The origins of Hanukkah date back to 200 BC.
During that time, the Land of Israel (Judea) was under control of Antiochus III, the king of Syria. Although Antiochus III allowed the Jews who lived in his land to practice their religion, his son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, was less understanding. In 168 BC, Antiochus IV Epiphanes and his soldiers descended upon Jerusalem, murdering thousands of Jews and vandalizing the city’s holy Second Temple.
A large-scale rebellion broke out against Antiochus and the Seleucid monarchy, led by Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons. Mattathias died in 166 BC, leaving his son, Judah, to take the helm. Within two years of Judah’s leadership, the Jews had successfully driven the Syrians out of Jerusalem.
Judah called upon his followers to cleanse the Second Temple, rebuild its altar, and light its Menorah. The Menorah is a gold candelabrum whose seven branches represent knowledge and creation.
The so called “Miracle of Hanukkah” refers to the extent of which the candles of the Menorah stayed lit. There was only enough untainted olive oil to keep the Menorah’s candles burning for one day. However, the candles stayed lit for a whole eight nights. This “miracle” is what caused the Jewish to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival.
Today, Jewish people everywhere stay true to the Hanukkah traditions. Most Jewish families own a Menorah and on each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the Menorah after sundown. The Shamash (helper candle) is the ninth candle used to light all the others.
To celebrate Hanukkah today, most American families exchange one gift for every night of the holiday.
“For Hanukkah, my whole family gathers around the dining room table, we take the Menorah out, we put candles in it, and we say our Hanukkah prayer before lighting the Menorah,” says junior Jacob Egierd.
During Hanukkah rituals, Jewish people often recite blessings and place the Menorah in a window or easily-viewed area.
Some families fry traditional Hanukkah foods in oil. Latkes (potato pancakes) and Sufganiyot (jam-filled donuts) are very popular in Jewish households.
Today, Hanukkah has become a very commercial holiday because it is also around Christmastime. Families see it as a gateway to making gift exchanges with each other. It does not, however, interfere with school or work. Places do not close just because it is Hanukkah.