Community celebrates Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that lasts eight days


Photo provided by community member Doug Thornton

Every day a new candle is lit each with its own special meaning.

Hanukkah is an eight day “festival of lights” celebration that commemorates the Jewish uprising against their oppressors from the Seleucid Empire during the Maccabean Revolt. Hanukkah is on Kislev 25 in the Hebrew calendar, which means it typically occurs near Christmas. Hanukkah 2021 was from November 28 through December 6.
According to the Talmud, a central text of Judaism, a miracle was witnessed during the Maccabean Revolt. To celebrate the victory in the revolt, an oil candle was lit. Despite only enough oil to burn for a day, the flame miraculously lasted eight days. A translation of the Talmud states, “when the Hasmonean monarchy overcame them and emerged victorious over them, they searched and found only one cruse of oil that was placed with the seal of the High Priest, undisturbed by the Greeks. And there was sufficient oil there to light the candelabrum for only one day. A miracle occurred and they lit the candelabrum from it for eight days.”
Hanukkah is typically celebrated by lighting candles in a menorah. The menorah holds nine candles, one “helper candle” called the shamash and eight other candles, one for each night of Hanukkah. The shamash is lit first, and is then used to light the other candles. Special blessings are said and traditional songs are often sung during the ritual of lighting the menorah.
For each night of Hanukkah, the shamash is lit as well as one additional candle per night. On the first night, the shamash and one other candle are lit. By the eighth night, the shamash and all eight other candles are lit. Many Jewish people light the menorah outside or near a window as a way to publicize the miracle. “We light the menorah each night after the sun goes down and we say two prayers,” said senior Sawyer Morris.
Other Hanukkah traditions include eating foods fried in oil, such as latkes and sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts). It is also customary to play with dreidels, which are four-sided spinning tops. Because Hanukkah is often near Christmas, there has been a rise in popularity of gift exchanging throughout the holiday.