WHAT IS HANUKAH AND HOW DO WE CELEBRATE IT?
This article was written by Bree Daniels for “Hebraic Heritage Newsgroup” <firstname.lastname@example.org> There are two ways which our enemies have historically sought to destroy us. The first is by physical annihilation; the most recent attempt being the Holocaust. The second is through cultural assimilation. Purim is the annual celebration of our physical survival. Hanukah is the annual celebration of our spiritual survival over the many who would have liked to destroy us through cultural assimilation. In 167 BCE the Syrian-Greek emperor, Antiochus, set out to destroy Judaism by imposing a ban on three Mitzvot: The Shabbat, The Sanctifying of the New Month (establishing the first day of the month by testimony of witnesses who saw the new moon) and Brit Mila (entering the Covenant of Abraham through Torah-ordained circumcision). The Shabbat signifies that God is the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and that His Torah is the blueprint of creation, meaning and values. Sanctifying the New Month determines the day of the Jewish holidays. Without it there would be chaos. For example, if Succot is the 15th of Tishrei, the day it occurs depends upon which day is declared the first of Tishrei. Brit Mila is a sign of our special covenant with the Almighty. * Nun — no one wins. * Gimmel — spinner takes the pot. * Hey — spinner get half the pot. * Shin/Pay — spinner matches the pot! Or, each player starts with 10 points. The player that drops to -0- points, loses. the one that reaches 50 points, wins!
If you are not Jewish but Christian, and you would like to also celebrate Hanukkah, simply because the Lord Yeshua observed this festival as well, being a Jew according to the flesh, then just learn and enjoy without worrying about every detail in how to keep it. For example, we as Jews light the Hanukkah candle before we light the Shabbat candle, because the observance of Shabbat and to keep it holy was commanded by the Lord our G-d, while Hanukkah is basically a commemorative festival. The light Shabbat brings into our lives and every household by far exceeds the light of Hanukkah. But such careful observance is not enjoined upon you as a Christian, nor is there any requirement for you to keep this holiday. So, enjoy it together with celebrating the Birth of Israel’s Messiah, the Redeemer and Savior of the world.
By Bob Strauss
eHow Contributing Writer
Many folks, Jews and non-Jews alike, have come to think of Hanukkah as “Christmas Lite”-after all, both holidays take place at the same time of year, and involve feasting, decorating, and elaborate exchanges of presents. However, Hanukkah has its own set of ancient traditions and rituals that make it as different from Christmas as, well, Passover is different from Easter. Here’s how to observe this holiday in its own unique way.
Things You’ll Need:
• Gift Bows
• Gift Bags
• Bookstore/music Gift Certificates
• Gift Cards
• Jelly Doughnuts
• Tissue paper
• Hanukkah Songbooks
• Wrapping Paper
• Gift Ribbons
Traditional Hanukkah Foods
Latkes, or potato pancakes, are a traditional Hanukkah dish. But the significance isn’t in the potato; it’s in the oil that you use to fry them. When the Jerusalem Temple was recaptured and reconsecrated by the Maccabbees, only one night’s worth of oil remained to light the temple. Miraculously, though, the oil lasted eight nights, or enough time to make more oil. That’s the miracle of Hanukkah. However, since man cannot live on latke alone, we’ve also included recipes for other traditional foods served at Jewish celebrations.
* Make Potato Latkes
* Make Applesauce
* Make Matzoh Ball Soup
* Make Brisket
* Make Noodle Kugel
* Make Challah
* Make Pickled Salmon
* Make Beet Borscht
* Make Coconut Macaroons
Know what you’re celebrating. Hanukkah commemorates the victory of a band of Jewish warriors, the Maccabees, over the Syrian king Antiochus almost 2,500 years ago. After driving out the Syrians, the Maccabees reoccupied the Temple of Jerusalem, where they found enough oil to keep the all-important “Eternal Light” shining for only one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, hence the eight days of Hanukkah (which is derived from the Hebrew word for “rededication.”)
Light a menorah. One of the symbols most closely associated with Judaism, the menorah is a nine-branched candelabra used during the eight days of Hanukkah. On Hanukkah eve, celebrants light a “shamash” (usually the extra candle in the middle of the menorah), then use this lit candle to light the first candle on the left. This ritual continues over the next eight days until all eight candles are lit.
Sing some songs. There aren’t quite as many Hanukkah songs as there are Christmas carols, but you’ll be surprised by their variety. Probably the most famous (at least to non-Jews) is “I Have a Little Dreidel,” which is sung to accompany the dreidel game, a harmless game of chance in which kids win (or lose) candy by spinning an inscribed top.
Fry up some latkes. Practically every Jewish holiday has its traditional food: hamentaschen (triangle-shaped cookies) on Purim, matzoh (unleavened bread) on Passover, and latkes (potato pancakes fried in oil) on Hanukkah. As tasty as they are, latkes can be unhealthy to eat for eight consecutive days, so feel free to explore the rest of the Jewish cookbook (flanken, gefilte fish, etc.)
Hand out presents. Here’s where Hanukkah is very different from Christmas: kids usually don’t receive one big “Hanukkah gift,” but eight small gifts bestowed over the course of the holiday. Because eight big gifts in a row are an expensive proposition, Hanukkah gifts are usually small, but fun-think toy soldiers, to commemorate the Maccabees, or even a plain old Slinky.
From “wikihow” How to celebrate Hanukkah
Although often referred to as Jewish Christmas, the holiday of Hanukkah is actually much older than Christmas, and a completely different holiday. Hanukkah begins at sundown on different civil dates depending on how the Jewish calendar comes out; in 2009 it begins on the night of December 12th. Come, grab a dreidel and learn how this minor holiday which celebrates a military victory has become so important in recent years.
1. Family gathers to enjoy, celebrate and light the candles
Learn about the holiday. Hanukkah is about God’s protection of the Israelites, and the miracles that occured on the day. The holiday celebrates the triumph of faith and courage over military might, when a band of Israelites stood up for their right to be Jewish. They were prohibited under penalty of death from studying their sacred texts or performing important mitzvot. Their holy Temple had been defiled, and they were ordered to worship other gods. However, a small band of faithful Israelites, known as the Maccabees, rose up and defeated the invaders, reclaimed the Temple, and rededicated it to God. The eternal flame in the Temple’s great menorah (lamp stand) had to be lit. But the sacred olive oil needed to burn in the lamp stand took 8 days to press and purify. The Jews had only a one-day supply of oil. They decided, in faith, to light the flame anyway. And, a great miracle occurred. The jug of oil refilled itself every day with enough oil to relight the Temple’s great menorah, and this continued for 7 days, the exact time it took to prepare new oil! It is a common misconception that the oil burned continuously for 8 days. This story is even mentioned by Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Antiquities of the Israelites, Book 12, chapter 7, sections 6 and 7). Since that time, Hanukkah has been celebrated for 8 days to recall the miracle when the menorah burned for 8 days at the Temple. The main miracle of Hannukah is the victory of the Maccabees against the most powerful army in the world.
2. Menorah is lit every night to celebrate the miracles of the oil and the war
Get a Hannukiah.The most basic thing you need to celebrate Hanukkah is a 9-branched candelabra, called a Hannukiah (or often a Menorah, although technically a Menorah is a 7-branched candelabra), and candles. Eight of the branches represent the eight nights, while the last one (at a different height, usually higher than the rest) is called the shamash or helper candle, and is used to light the rest of the candles. On the first night, the shamash is lit, a blessing is recited, and the first candle is lit. On the second night, the shamash plus two candles are lit and so on until the eighth night, when all nine branches contain lit candles. You should place the candles to the right, but you always light the left (newest) candle first. Traditionally, the lighted Hannukiah is placed near a window, so that everyone passing by can remember the miracle of Hanukkah. Some families that place the Hannukiah near the window light the candles left to right so that it appears right to left to a passer-by.
3. Play dreidel.
A four sided top, called a dreidel or sivivon is used to play a gambling game with small candies or nuts. Players get an equal amount of candies, and some are placed into a “pot” in the center. Players take turns spinning the dreidel. Each side of the dreidel bears a letter which tells the players whether to put in or take out candies. The game ends when someone has all the candies, or when the candies have all been eaten (usually the case in homes with small children!)
4. Hanukkah gelt
Give small tokens to children. Small gifts of money (gelt) are given to children on each night of Hanukkah. Chocolate coins are also popular as treats and gifts during Hanukkah. Consider giving each child a 5 dollar blank check each night to make out to the charity of their choice.
5. Grandma enjoys frying the latkes and it is a typical tradition
Eat the foods cooked in oil. Hanukkah just wouldn’t be the same without the traditional latkes and applesauce. Latkes (pancakes made from shredded potatoes, onions, matzoh meal and salt) are fried in oil to crispy gold brown, then served with applesauce (and often sour cream). The frying oil reminds celebrants of the miracle of the oil. Small powdered sugar donuts, called sufgeniot are also a popular Hanukkah treat, especially in Israel. Fried, oil-rich foods are the theme!
6. Practice Tikun Olam
Use the holiday as a chance to talk with children about what they believe in, and what it means to stand up for your beliefs. Find causes that support free speech and religious freedom, and help them to spread those messages centuries after the miracle of Hanukkah. After all, Hannukah is the story of the Isrealites fighting for religious freedom!
• Don’t try to make Hanukkah compete with Christmas. Although they occur at about the same time of year, they are not related in any way.
Annelore’s comment: Except – that both are known as “Festival of Lights”: the Christmas tree illuminated by candles (now by electric lights) as well as the Hanukkiah. And both commemorate salvation: Christmas celebrating the Birth of the Savior, while Hanukkah celebrates deliverance and salvation from the enemy of Israel who tried to swollow up G-d’s covenant people both physically, culturally and spiritually. On the Hanukkiah the 9th or 1st candle is called the “Servant” candle – in Hebrew shamash / שמש – with which the other 8 candles are being lit one by one, representative of Messiah Yeshua Who lights with the light of life whosoever believes in Him, whether Jew or Gentile.
Enjoy the holiday for what it means to our lives today about faith, and standing up for one’s beliefs in the face of strong opposition.
• Hanukkah can be spelled a number of ways, including Chanukah, Chanukkah, Hanukkah…all are correct, as the word is a transliteration of a word in Hebrew.
• Don’t forget that Hanukkah is a time for fun and enjoyment.
• Always watch lighted candles carefully. Do not place the Hannukiah on a ledge, near the edge or a surface, or near anything that might catch on fire. Be sure that small children, long hair, and loose clothing stay away from the flames.
• Do not blow the candles out unless it is absolutely necessary. The object is to let the candles burn until they are gone. Unless you are leaving the house and have no one to attend to the candles, let them go for as long as possible. If you’re worried about creating a mess, use non-drip candles, or place foil underneath the Hannukiah.
• When a day of Hannukah begins on Friday night make sure to light the candles before Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) starts, as it is prohibited to light fire after sunset.