Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Shining a Festive light

The first night of Hanukah is tonight. Before I was married that would not mean much to me. I never celebrated Hanukah as a child, even though we were Jewish. We were not religious and I guess my parents thought a christmas tree with all the decorations would be more festive for us kids. As a kid I did not know anything about Hanukah or the meaning behind it. My wife grew up celebrating Hanukah so when our son was born, it was easy to start fresh with Hanukah, but I still not know the meaning behind Hanukah. I knew a little, like it last eight days and you light candles, but why? So I went to the web to find out what Hanukah is all about. After searching and reading, I was more confused than before. There seems to be many interpretations to the story but I did find basic answers that helped me get a clearer picture of the holiday called The Festival of Lights:

(Courtesy of

Origin of the word Hanukah
First of all, why is it spelled so many different ways?
This has to do with the sound that comes at the beginning of the word. There is no direct english translation for the unique gutteral sound. Therefore, it is generally spelled with either an "H" or a "CH".

Hanukah, or Chanukah, or Hanukkah, translates into the words "dedicate" and "beginning".
This holiday got its name from the Maccabees when they regained the Temple. Because the Greeks had desecrated it, the Maccabees rededicated to mark the Temple's new beginning.

Maccabees and miracles
In Jerusalem, the oppression of Jews worsened. Greeks even demanded a statue of Zeus to be built in the Jewish Temple.
It was at this time that a man named Mattisyahu moved his family to Modiin. But, peace for him and his family was only temporary. Greeks eventually showed up in Modiin too. Because Mattisyahu was a respected elder, he was chosen to offer a sacrifice to one of the pagan gods. He refused. However, one of his fellow Jews decided to do the sacrifice anyway.
Mattisyahu, in a fit of anger, killed the Jew and then the Greek soldiers. This was the beginning of the Jewish Revolt.
A year later, his son Judah Maccabee took leadership of the rebellion when his father passed away. Judah was an excellent leader and eventually led a force, known as the Maccabees, to victory in recapturing the Temple. Upon entering the Temple, they found only enough oil to light the Menorah for one day.
Then, a wonderous miracle occured! The oil for one day lit the Temple for eight straight days. This is where we get the eight days of Hanukah.

I still have a lot to learn but I now have a better understanding behind the meaning of Hanukah, a holiday full of history and tradition, one I continue to learn about and look forward to celebrating it with my family each year.
Happy Hanukah everyone...


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