Many call Chanukah the Festival of Lights;
Where lamp oil for one day, lasted many more nights.
It’s a miracle, they say, that one day turned to eight;
God’s great blessing and grace that changed Jewish fate.
At sundown on December 12, Jews around the world will begin the eight-day celebration of Chanukah.
Here’s a little history:
In the second century BC, a small band of faithful Jews in the Holy Land defeated a mighty army trying to force them to accept Greek culture. When the Jews reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, they attempted to light the temple’s seven-branch candelabrum, but found only one cruse of uncontaminated, ritual oil.
Miraculously, the menorah stayed lit for eight days, until more ritual oil could be produced. Chanukah celebrates that miracle and the Jewish heroes who fought to continue observing the Jewish faith and traditions.
Today, Jews celebrate Chanukah by lighting the menorah, a candelabra that holds nine candles; eight for each day the holy oil lasted and one – the Shamash— to light the other candles. Each night of the holiday, Jews gather around the menorah, say a Hebrew prayer, and light one more candle until the entire menorah is ablaze on the last night of the holiday.
Chanukah activities celebrate the miracle. Jews eat fried foods to remind them of the holy oil, particularly fried potato pancakes called latkes and fried doughnuts filled with jelly called sufganya.
Presents are exchanged, and the dreidel, a four-sided top, is spun during a gambling game where Chanukah “gelt” (usually chocolate covered coins) is bet.
Each side of the dreidel contains a Hebrew letter that tells the spinner how much of the pot he’s won or lost.