Festival of Lights

By December 6, 2021Uncategorized

Thousands of years ago, a Jewish holiday was born. Chanukah or Hanukkah. Chanukah is the Jewish “Festival of Lights.”

The English spelling, Hanukkah, and Hebrew spelling, Chanukah, translate to Feast of Dedication. As with many languages, Hebrew has its own verbal distinctions. One is a “guttural,” or rough-sounding ch…(as if one is clearing his/her throat). When spoken in English, the word is Hanukkah. It’s spoken with a softer, or smoother, sound. 

Chanukah is “An Eight Day Winter Festival of Lights.” This year, (in 2021), on the Gregorian calendar. All Jewish holidays begin at sundown the night before the first day…similar to the way Christmas Eve is celebrated on December 24th, with Christmas day celebrated on December 25. The Christian holiday, Easter, is celebrated on the lunar calendar. Easter is celebrated in spring, usually in March or April, and on any date.

Most of today’s agenda-book style calendars and wall calendars are diverse. If you look at your calendar or agenda, you may see that your own holidays and others’ religious and cultural holidays are printed in it. With Jewish holidays, many calendars are printed with “Chanukah begins at sunset.” 

Chanukah candles are placed in a menorah. The Chanukah Menorah is a “Chanukah”. Every night, the Chanukah holds its given night of the holiday plus a leader candle, called the Shamash. The Shamash has an important job: to light each candle before it is placed in the Chanukah.

This year, the first Chanukah candle is lit at sunset or sundown on Monday, November 29.  Going forward one candle, the first night’s candle will be lit at sundown. A candle signifying each day of Chanukah, for eight days, will be lit each night during the holiday for eight days. On the night of Chanukah, the last candle will be lit at sunset on December 6, 2021.

Last September, Jews around the world welcomed the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah means “the birthday of the world.” This year is 5782. That’s five thousand, seven hundred, and eighty-two years. (Nearly 6 millennia ago!) 

On Chanukah, Jews invite family and friends into their home to enjoy a holiday meal, sing songs, light the menorah, and play games. One well-known game played during Chanukah is Dreidel. The game “Dreidel” is a spinning top decorated with a Hebrew letter on each of four sides. They are the letters Noon (nuhn), Rash (raysh), Gimmel (gimmel), and Hay (hey). Those letters represent “A great miracle happened there”. 

Chanukah is not the Jewish Christmas. Chanukah is a winter holiday held to celebrate the Jewish people finding a small amount of oil inside the first temple, lighting it, and the oil staying lit for eight days. We celebrate the victory of the small amount of oil burning for eight days, and the Miracle that the oil played. Jewish families prepare the celebratory meal, usually making latkes, (laht-kehs) or potato pancakes fried in oil, most frequently served alongside sliced brisket and roasted vegetables, like potatoes and carrots. For dessert? Sufganiyot may be served. That’s delicious, delectable, fried jelly doughnut. Yummy! 

~Susan, BIND Member