Photo Credit: ChaiSpace
In a moment I will tell my non-Jewish friends what Chanukah celebrates, but first I have to tell you that no Jewish Holiday is possible without Jewish mothers. My mother made potato latkes so delicious you could eat them plain, but even better when topped with sour cream or apple sauce.
Please do not confuse them with hash browns. Latkes and other fried foods are eaten during this festival most likely because this holiday celebrates a miracle involving oil that lasted eight days instead of one.
The Story of Chanukah
Long ago in the land of Judea there was a Syrian king, Antiochus. The king ordered the Jewish people to reject their G-d, their religion, their customs and their beliefs and to worship the Greek gods. There were some who did as they were told, but many refused. One who refused was Judah Maccabee.
Judah and his four brothers formed an army and chose as their name the word "Maccabee", which means hammer. After three years of fighting, the Maccabees were finally successful in driving the Syrians out of Israel and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees wanted to clean the building and to remove the hated Greek symbols and statues. On the 25th day of the month of Kislev, the job was finished and the temple was rededicated.
When Judah and his followers finished cleaning the temple, they wanted to light the eternal light, known as the N'er Tamid, which is present in every Jewish house of worship. Once lit, the oil lamp should never be extinguished.
Only a tiny jug of oil was found with only enough for a single day. The oil lamp was filled and lit. Then a miracle occurred as the tiny amount of oil stayed lit not for one day, but for eight days.
Jews celebrate Chanukah to mark the victory over the Syrians and the re-dedication of the Jerusalem Temple. The Festival of the Lights, Chanukah, lasts for eight days to commemorate the miracle of the oil. The word Chanukah means "re-dedication".
In America, families celebrate Chanukah at home. They give and receive gifts, decorate the house, entertain friends and family, eat special foods, and light the holiday menorah.
A more colorful version is available at Angel's Woman Honor Thyself - HappY (C)hanukkah! who sees a striking similarity of the story to events of today.
Rubicon3 reminds us that the existence of the Jewish people is itself a miracle: (from The Greeks and the Jews) Excerpt:
The Jewish people should never have come into existence. With Abraham's wife Sarah being barren, that should have been it. Abraham would have died childless, and his mission would have died with him. But it didn't. A miracle happened.
When I first studied the story of Abraham it was explained to me that his son was named Isaac (in Hebrew, Yitzchak), a name derived from the word "laughter," expressing Abraham's joy of getting a son in his old age. (Gen 17-18). That explanation is wrong. The word Yitzchak is more a guttural HAH! than a quiet smile. Actually, it was Sara who laughed hysterically when God promised the couple that she would bear a child at 90 years of age.
Adam Graham at Adam's Blog put a podcast (6:30) together at blog/index.php/a/2006/12/13/title_19 My Thoughts on Hanukkah and tells us that there are some things worth fighting for and discusses other events in American history as well.
I must say, that I have read quite a number of Chanukah stories since taking on this Carnival of Lights. But no matter how many I read there is always something new and insightful to discover. And so it is with Joshua Pundit's The story of Hanukkah, Excerpt:
Towards the end of the war, Antiochus and the Seleucids became so obsessed with defeating the Jews that they sacked their own cities and sold their own citizens into slavery to get money to pursue the war against the Jews.
The War of the Maccabees was the first war ever fought for religious freedom. Somehow, a group of farmers with no military training who refused to bow to their oppressors defeated a mighty empire and its immense standing armies. There seems to be no plausible explanation for the victory of the Jews except that it was a miracle.
Then there is this short version from the way i see it
They wanted us to act like Greeks
They didn't want us to practise as Jews.
We fought them.
We couldn't find oil.
We found oil.
Debbie Schlussel points out: Although Chanukah is NOT a major Jewish holiday, it has been "elevated" to one, due to its close proximity to Christmas. Still, it is the magnificent story of the will to survive coupled with so many miracles...
I have to agree. Just as the celebration of Christmas has changed through the addition of songs and our American style of ritual, so has the celebration of Chanukah. Here's an interesting way to observe Chanukah at the Ballegio.
Chanukah is a holiday that comes not from the Bible but as a rejoicing over religious freedom. It is now observed as a spiritual event, or a festival of games and fun, a re-dedication of Jewish Pride, or as a gift-giving flurry of merriment - whatever lights your candle. Perhaps in all these years of sharing the same approximate wintertime as Christmas, Jews have begun celebrating Chanukah much in the same way that Christians celebrate Christmas. Jews in America observe Chanukah differently than Jews do elsewhere in the world. For the rest of the world, Chanukah is a rather minor holiday. But for Jews here, in America, Chanukah is no small bubkes. And each year, more and more It's getting to look a lot like Christmas.
I was very fortunate in my childhood to have celebrated both Jewish and Christian holidays. I can recite the various bruchas or blessings over bread and wine in Hebrew and I know most of the words to 'O Holy Night", (music by Adolphe Charles Adam, a Jew), which by the way, is said to have been the first music ever broadcast over a radio. MIDI. But I do not mash the holidays together and because I am an atheist I enjoy each separately and for different reasons than the faithful.
Those who celebrate both holidays because of mixed marriages may want to read The Yid with Lid's post at PC Gone Mad: Get that Menorah away from the Town 's Christmas Tree!, Excerpt: Let me suggest that If Matthias and his Sons were alive today, they would be fighting every Jew that wanted a six foot menorah next to a Christmas tree a star of David next to a Cross or even the term Judeo-Christian values. There is no such thing ! There are wonderful Christian values and wonderful Jewish values, and there are similarities but there are also major differences. We need to celebrate those differences not merge into one hodgepodge of mediocrity, that celebrates absolutely nothing.
Jon Swift is upset over the War on Hanukkah, Excerpt: Recently, I went to see my town's Hannukah Bush and was outraged that they were calling it a "Holiday Tree." It's not a "Holiday Tree" it's a "Hanukah Bush" (or Chanukah Bush - not sure which) Unfortunately, the forces of political correctness and inclusion are bending over backwards not to offend Gentiles.
Although the Christmas Trees were put back at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, SnoopyTheGoon at SimplyJews reported on a miracle: a Seattle rabbi caused all the Christmas trees to disappear (miraculously) from the airport, read about it at The Chanukah miracle in Sea-Tac.
Pamela at Atlas Shrugs wishes us Happy Chanukah......... Pause, Excerpt:
While we are lighting candles, singing songs and enjoying sweet donuts on the first night of Chanukah, pause to remember the Warsaw ghetto diary found during Chanukah 2004.
April 28: "This is our 10th day in the bunker. Ten days of struggle with our bloodthirsty enemy who plans to utterly destroy us. He started the war with grenades and tanks, and ends it with setting homes on fire. We must survive and we hope we will survive. We are fighting for justice, and the right to live..."
Angel at Woman Honor Thyself wishes us all a MerrY Chanukah and HappY ChristmaS. Same to you, sweet Angel.
Professor Matthew Søberg Shugart from Fruits and Votes in his post: Chanukah, 5767 tells us that The holiday is a beautiful and evocative one, with an additional candle lit each of the next seven nights after tonight. The holiday comes–not by accident–right around the winter solstice, and the increasing light of the candles each night symbolizes the return of light at the darkest time of year.
That last sentence made me think of how Jews and Christians by their spirit in celebrating this most wonderful of seasons light the world in this most darkest of times.
Why Dogs Bite People, I thought it was only during Halloween that dog owners humiliated their pets. I was wrong:
Tired of candles and want to try oil? A Simple Jew instructs us with Being Obsessive" About Olive Oil, Excerpt: As someone born on Chanukah, I feel a certain connection to this holiday. I have always wanted to use olive oil to light the menorah, however our simple silver menorah was designed only to hold candles. To rectify this problem, I bought small glass adapters to fit the menorah before Chanukah this year. Using olive oil for the first time made lighting the menorah particularly special.
Again, Woman Honor Thyself has some advice for the civilized world in Chanukkah Call to ArmS: This Chanukkah, We all need to become Maccabees.
Some More Chanukah stuff:
There is a Chassidic custom to regard the fifth night of Chanukah as special. For example, the fifth night of Chanukah can never fall on the sabbath. To find out more read Judeopundit's The Fifth Night of Chanukah.
A documentary featuring puppets sharing their feelings about chanukah - YouTube .
There are more Christmas Songs than Chanukah songs (click here for a few samples),; on the other hand, many of the most memorable Christmas ditties were written by Jews. As Ben Stein once wrote, "I have always felt that no one loved Christmas like the Jews". But the best known Chanukah Song has to be Adam Sandler's.
Technically, a menorah in Hebrew has seven branches, what you see in these photos is actually a chanukiah which has nine branches.
10% of my readers are Spanish, for you I have Janucá - The Chanukah Story in Spanish
Get your own Dreidel at ChaiSpace!
Film Gecko - Top 10 Chanukah Movies
Some beautiful photos at Dave Bender's Old City, Jerusalem, Channukah 2006 Flickr Slideshow.
Irena tells us the lessons of Chanuka in The Sweet Taste of Victory, Excerpt: as we celebrate Chanukkah this year, the taste of past victory will once more awaken something within us - the taste of what it means to be free, to live proudly, to stand tall. We've done it before in far worse circumstances, and we can do it again.