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Festival of lights begins this weekend

12:00 PM, Dec 7, 2012   |    comments
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We looked at the origin and traditions of the holiday with Rabbi Levi Brackman on 9NEWS 8 a.m.

In the country now known as Israel, the Syrian King Antiochus called upon the Jewish people to forsake their religion in favor of the Greek gods. Among those who resisted was Judah Maccabee, who, along with his brothers, fought the Syrians for the right to practice their religion.

It took three years, but on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the Jewish calendar, they were successful in returning their temple to the Jewish people. As part of the re-dedication of the temple (Hanukkah means re-dedication), they wanted to light an eternal lamp using traditional oil; however, there was only enough oil for one day of burning.

Amazingly, the oil lasted eight days; it was a miracle. This miracle is symbolized during Hanukkah by lighting candles in a menorah for eight consecutive nights, creating the Festival of Lights.

About the menorah

The menorah is a nine-candle candelabra. The center candle (candleholder) is generally taller than the other eight, flanking it four candles on either side; it is called the Shamash and its main duty is to light the other candles each night.

At sundown on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, the candles are lit by lighting the Shamash first. On the first night, one other candle is lit; on the second night, two other candles are lit, and so on for all eight nights, until there are nine candles glowing on the eighth night (eight candles plus the Shamash). Traditionally, each family member had their own menorah so the way of passers-by can be lit when they are put in windows. Special Hanukkah candles are sold for the holiday. A blessing is said as the candles are lit.

Let the fun begin

Once the ceremony of candle lighting is over, the fun and games begin. The game of chance, known as dreidel, is played with a four-sided spinning top with a different Hebrew symbol on each side, each with a different value. Winners receive the "pot": usually pennies or chocolate coins known as "gelt."

And let's not forget the food: traditionally, potato pancakes (known as latkes) are served with sour cream or applesauce. Small presents are given each night; unlike Christmas gift-giving, Hanukkah is low key, though there are few complaints about receiving a present eight nights in a row.

Decorating for the occasion

Due to Hanukkah's proximity to and overlap with Christmas in many years, Jewish people have taken more of an interest in decorating for their Hanukkah celebrations. As a result, Hanukkah-themed tableware (napkins, paper plates, etc) and knickknacks are more readily available at discount and party stores than in the past.

Editor's Note:

Rabbi Brackman will preside over a Menorah lighting in Evergreen in what he said will be a united celebration involving more than eight local organizations.

The celebration will take place on December 15th at 6 p.m. at the Evergreen Lake House. The event includes the menorah lighting, food and music with Cantor Goldstein of the Hebrew Educational Alliances.

Rabbi Brackman pointed out another Menorah lighting of note will take place December 9th at 3:30 pm at the Orchard Town Center in Westminster. This lighting will help honor the memory of Jessica Ridgeway. 

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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