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Hanukkah – Festival of Lights

Young boy lighting candlesHappy Hanukkah!  Tonight will be the first night of the eight nights of Hanukkah, also called Festival of Lights or Festival of Dedication.  It is a Jewish festival signifiying the rededication of  the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabees–a group dedicated to reasserting the Jewish religion–successfully rebelled against Antiochus IV Epiphanes (who issued laws forbidding the practice of Judaisim).

After the victory, the Maccabees went to purify and rededicate the Temple only to find there was enough pure olive oil to burn in the menorah for just one day.  The everburning lights symbolize the spirit that can never be extinguished, so it was immensely important to find more oil to keep the menorah burning.  The miracle of Hanukkah is that the one-day supply of sacred oil burned for eight days, allowing enough time for the pressing of more oil and the light to remain alive.

Lighting an oil-lamp  menorah is considered the traditional way of celebrating the miracle of Hanukkah, but many Jews today light candles in a menorah. Some people have electric menorahs as well.

Every night of Hanukkah, a candle is lit and blessings are sung over the candles. Hanukkah is celebrated with a wide variety of songs, playing the dreidl game, and eating special foods fried in oil such as latkes. If you celebrate Hanukkah, what activities are most important to you and why?

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