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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hanukkah, the short version

Due to their proximity to the international date line, Jews in New Zealand (all 27 of us) are the first in the world to welcome Hanukkah which begins this evening at sundown. For my gentle gentile blog followers, I give you a brief history of Hanukkah and its traditions.

- actual photograph of Judah Maccabee -

About 2200 years ago, the land of Judea was ruled over by Greece. The Greco-Syrian king Antiochus forbade the Jewish people from praying to their God and practicing their customs. Rather than being forced adopt a Hellenistic lifestyle, a small band of freedom fighters, led by Judah Maccabee and his four brothers, took up arms against the much larger Greek army. After three years of intense fighting, the Maccabees outmaneuvered the Hellenic armies and triumphed over Greek paganism and oppression.

- actual photograph of the Second Temple in its glory -

When the Maccabbes returned to reclaim the Temple in Jerusalem, they discovered only one day's worth of purified oil remained. It would take the Jews a week to process more oil to keep the sacred menorah burning. A great miracle occurred when the Maccabees lit the lamp and it burned for eight days, giving the Jews enough time to press more oil.

Hanukkah was established to celebrate Jewish national survival, to commemorate victory over religious oppression, and to remember the Miracle of the Oil. One candle of a menorah is lit during each of the eight nights of the Festival of Lights. While lighting the candles, blessings are recited and songs are sung.
After lighting the menorah, Jewish families eat a traditional meal of foods fried in oil, including latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts). Children play games with a dreidel (spinning top) for gelt (chocolate coins).

Wishing NKP, Alexis, and all lurkers of the Jewish persuasion a very Happy Hanukkah!

11 comments:

woodley park-zoo said...

I know I've heard this story before, in my youth but it's nice to have a refresher! I wish I could have some latkes! Happy Hanukkah to you!

nkp said...

Wishing you, LB, and the sweet Pea a most wonderous Hanukkah! Hope the holiday is especially magical this year as you see it through the little one's eyes. That was a superbly written post!

essee said...

Great easy to understand explanation. Thanks for that post. And love your new profile pic!

WV: tickajo - the kinkajou's evil cousin?

Robin said...

I knew the story of the oil but forgot (never knew?) the part about the Greeks. Those latkes look delicious....

Happy Hanukkah to you and your family!

Alexis said...

I love the real photographs--that must've taken some doing! :)

Happy Hanukkah!

hello gorgeous said...

Happy Hanukkah to you and your sweet ones. Pretty new pic! I never realized the foods were cooked in oil because of the Miracle of the Oil. Makes perfect sense.

Camilla @ Designalogue Blog said...

Oh yum! The latkes look especially good! Oh, this is going to make my chicken salad dinner feel really boring tonight!
Happy Hanukkah!
psst - I always get the oddest word verifications on your blog - now is pantsalt !!!

Raina said...

"Pantsalt?" That's the best!

erin@designcrisis said...

Sorry I'm late to the party, but Happy Hanukkah! I learned some of this story at a synagogue in Dallas, but that was looong ago, and I definitely appreciate the refresher course.

Wish I had some latkes and jelly donuts... mmmmm, donuts!

Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish said...

Happy Hanukkah!

Raina said...

And to you as well, Dim Sum! Welcome to this deliciousness.