Hanukkah began yesterday at sunset. A Jewish observance— the Festival of Lights—commemorates the victory of the ancient Israelites over the Syrian Greek army, and the subsequent miracle of restoring the menorah in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The miracle was that one vial of oil was found with just enough oil for one day, yet it lasted eight full days.
The story is not found in the traditional Christian Bible, but it is found in the Book of Maccabees.
Hanukkah is celebrated at home by lighting the menorah (a sacred candelabrum with seven branches), playing dreidel (a small, four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side) and eating special foods unique to Hanukkah. Some people also sing songs or exchange gifts after lighting the menorah.
Many of the special foods are deep-fried in oil, symbolizing the oil from the menorah used in the Temple. These include latkes (potato pancakes deep fried, served with applesauce, sour cream or chopped green onions) and jelly doughnuts. Many people also make the Sephardic delicacy bimuelos (a dough fritter drizzled with a sweet syrup or dusted with powdered sugar) and use applesauce as a topping.
Hanukkah ends Monday, December 14.
If you’re wondering why this holiday is spelled so many ways, here is a short explanation. In Hebrew—the language from which the Jewish festival originates—the word for Hanukkah is not easily transliterated into English. This accounts for why so many spellings exist. But Hanukkah and Chanukah are the two versions that are most widely used and accepted.
Take a moment to wish Jewish friends a special celebration during this time.
If you are Jewish, Happy Hanukkah to you!