Friday, November 15, 2013

Guest and Giveaway: The Meaning Behind Hanukkah

The following is a guest post from Dara at Not In Jersey.

You probably have heard that Hanukkah is coinciding with Thanksgiving this year, with the first day falling on November 28th, but do you know the meaning behind Hanukkah? Although Hanukkah is one of the most well-known Jewish holidays due to its proximity in the calendar to Christmas, it is actually not one of the most religiously significant in the Jewish calendar. It does however have a very interesting story behind it.

The story of Hanukkah began in the time of Alexander the Great, who conquered Syria, Egypt, and the land that is now Israel. He let the lands he conquered continue observing their own religions. Under his rule, many Jews assimilated and adopted Greek culture. Much later on, a successor of Alexander the Great named Antiochus took control and began to oppress the Jews by desecrating the holy Temple and prohibiting the practice of Judaism. A small band of Jews revolted against the government and won, even though their army was so much smaller than the Greek army. The Jews went to rededicate the Temple and found only enough oil to light the menorah there for one day. This candelabrum was supposed to burn throughout the night every night. A miracle occurred and the small amount of oil lasted for eight days, which was the time it took to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. Because of this, an eight day festival was declared.

Each night of Hanukkah, a menorah with nine branches is lit. There is one candle for each day plus a helper candle, which is used to light the other candles. So on the first night, the helper candle and one other candle is lit, on the second night two others are lit, and so on through the 8th night when all of the candles are lit. It is also traditional to eat foods fried in oil for Hanukkah. Most famously, potato pancakes, or latkes, are eaten. The candles and the oily foods obviously commemorate the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days in the Temple.

Another custom on Hanukkah is to play the dreidel game. A dreidel is s four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side. the story behind the dreidel is that when Antiochus was oppressing the Jews, he did not allow the study of the Torah (the Jewish bible), so those who wanted to study Torah would hide what they were doing by pretending to play this game if Greek soldiers came into the area.

The most well-known custom of Hanukkah, of course, is gift-giving. This custom actually only developed in response to the gift-giving holiday of Christmas and was not an original holiday tradition. Although I dislike the fact that Hanukkah has become commercialized and is held in competition with Christmas, I do give my kids gifts on each night of the holiday. Be sure to check out Not In Jersey this year during Hanukkah to see our celebration as it unfolds!

Dara is a stay-at-home-mom to three kids and blogger at Not In Jersey.
She blogs about her family's adventures, crafts, travels, and more. Her
interests range from nail polish to zoo animals, and from books to
Disney World!

This week I am pleased to say Dara is offering this collection of Jewish themed books and a $10 Amazon Gift Card. Contest ends next Thursday!

The above post(s) may contain affiliated links, product placements, etc. This is how I can afford to buy the supplies to bring you new activites. Thanks for your support!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...