Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights – adds to December as a festive month the world over.
December is favorite month for many people and not only because of all the celebrations. (In fact there are 29 holidays celebrated by seven of world’s major religions between Nov. 1 and Jan. 15.)
In North Carolina, December is just cold enough that you don’t have to wear a complete winter coat but there is still that little possibility of snow. Comfort food by a fire is a must. Everyone is in such a warm and giving mood. Angels and Santas are lit up in yards, Christmas trees and Menorahs glow in windows, local shelters getting their shelves restocked with gifts from the community.
December 25th isn’t the only day to celebrate this December. We are also in the middle of Hanukkah, an 8-day celebration starting on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, this year December 6 through December 14. It is not the Jewish Christmas.
Each holiday has a story of it’s beginning and for Jews (for all, really) Hanukkah is a complex reminder to trust in God, that religious liberty will triumph over religious oppression and that justice will somehow prevail. Specifically, Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the Maccabees who in 165 B.C.E. revolted over the religious oppression of the Greek/Syrian rule of King Antiochus. Regaining control of the Temple, the Maccabees discovered they had only enough oil to light its eternal flame for one day. Somehow, through a miracle, the oil lasted eight days and was enough to cleanse and rededicate the Temple to God.
In remembrance of this time a candle is lit on a Menorah each night and prays are made:
Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-he-nu Me-lech ha-olam a-sher ki-de-sha-nu be-mitz-vo-tav ve-tzi-va-nu le-had-lik ner Cha-nu-kah.
Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-he-nu Me-lech Ha-olam she-a-sa ni-sim la-avo-te-nu ba-ya-mim ha-hem bi-zman ha-zeh.
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.
“I like spending time with my family,” explains Rebekkah Grossman. “We light the Menorah together and eat latkes. Sometimes we play dreidel for fun but it’s more for kids.”
While Christmas may occupy the thoughts and actions of Christians in December, Hanukkah is among the most joyous festivals of the year for Jews.
“Overall, I enjoy the family aspect of it the most,” said Rebekkah.