Thursday, December 15, 2011

December 15-Happy Hanukkah

In five days from today, at sunset, Hanukkah(also known as "The Festival of Lights") will begin and it will last for eight days. The Jewish who celebrate this holiday will begin by lighting the first (two) candles at sundown on December 20. I say two because the Menorah that is used has nine candles, eight for the eight days of Hanukkah and one extra to use in lighting each of the eight candles. It is forbidden to light any of the eight candles using any of the other eight celebratory candles. I have decided to write about Hanukkah in the topic for today, tomorrow will be Kwanzaa and the days leading up to Christmas will be about the way sub-religions of Christianity celebrate Christmas.
Hanukkah has a history that is not always completely clear, due to the different beliefs that can be found in Judaism. It is recognized by all Jewish people as a celebration of the take back and re dedication of the Second Temple. In 167 BCE a king by the name of Antiochus IV Epiphanes took over Jerusalem and banned Judaism, ordering an alter to Zeus erected in the Second Temple, in Jerusalem. Circumcision was banned and pigs were sacrificed at the alter of the Temple. A Jewish pries, by the name of Mattityahu, and his five sons led a rebellion against Antiochus. By 165 BCE the rebellion was a success and the Jewish people took back their Temple. The Temple was liberated and re-dedicated.
There was a Menorah located in the Temple that was lit using olive oil. The Menorah was required to burn each night. After the re-dedication, there was only enough olive oil to burn one day, but it wound up burning for eight. Eight days is how long it took to replace the supply of olive oil. This is one of the reasons that a Menorah containing eight candles (nine counting the Shamash, the extra light used to light each candle) is lit during the eight days of Hanukkah. It has been determined by many that the tradition of Hanukkah is to commemorate the miracle of the eight day long burning when the Temple was re-dedicated.
There is also another version of why the Jewish celebrate Hanukkah. That one being that there was an eight day celebration of songs and sacrifices proclaimed up re-dedication of the alter, this version has no mention of the oil miracle.
Rituals performed during Hanukkah vary, slightly. But it is definite that Hanukkah is not a Sabbath-like holiday and therefore there are no restrictions to a persons daily life. Adults go to work as usual, aside from sometimes having to leave early to be home by sunset for the light of the candles. Children go to school as usual, except in Israel. In Israel, children are out beginning the second day of Hanukkah, and then stay out of school until the holiday is over. Many families exchange gifts each night and typically fried foods are eaten. The Menorah, a nine branch candelabrum, is placed in either the window closest to the street, or near a door/doorway closest to the street. The Menorah consists of nine branches, but only eight are celebratory candles-the ninth branch is for the candle that is used in lighting the others. On the first day of Hanukkah, two candles are lit, one being the Shamash-which is the candle used to light the others, and the other one being the first candle of Hanukkah. Each day, the number of candles consistent with the number of days, is lit(example:day 4 you would light 5 candles total, the Shamash and then one candle for each day of Hanukkah). Friday is the only exception to the lighting at sunset, because Friday is the Shabbat the candle(s) for that day should be lit just before sunset. Each day the candle(s) must burn for at least 30 minutes past sundown(on Friday it will be a little longer than 30 minutes total because you may be lighting the candle(s) before sunset, but they still must burn for 30 minutes after sundown). Just before, or just after the lighting of the candles on the first day, three blessings are recited. After the first day, only the first two blessings are recited.
In North America, Hanukkah has gained increased importance because it typically falls right around Christmas time. Traditionally, Jewish children were given coins from their parents, but they started giving them gifts so they wouldn't feel left out-as children who celebrate Christmas get gifts during the Christmas season.
Both Israeli and North American versions of Hanukkah emphasize resistance, focusing on national liberation and religious freedom.
My children learn about different celebrations around Christmas, and I love the idea. It pleases me to know my children have the opportunity to learn how other children celebrate during this time of year. We, obviously, celebrate Christmas(and we celebrate it as Jesus' birthday, not only the commercialized ways), but I love to learn of the other ways people celebrate. I respect everyones different beliefs, and I wanted to share with you a little of what I know about Hanukkah. I hope that I did not leave too much out, or give too much-and anyone who celebrate Hanukkah....
Happy Hanukkah, it is a beautiful holiday.

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