Kindling of lights during Hanukkah
Hanukkah 2012 – Chanukah – Festival of Lights
When it happens: 8th – 16th December 2012
Where it happens: Jerusalem, Israel
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days in order to commemorate the rededication of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. It is also known as the Festival of Lights. It is observed for eight days and nights from the 25th day of Kislev of the Hebrew calendar. In Gregorian calendar, this falls from late November to late December.
The festival is celebrated by the kindling of lights of a nine-branched Hanukiah or Menorah, a unique candelabrum. One candle is lighted every night up to the eighth night. The typical Menorah has eight branches and one additional raised branch. The extra light, shamash, is provided with a distinct location below or above the rest. This symbolizes the light available for use because using the Hanukkah lights is forbidden.
You can celebrate Hanukkah with your family and the community. You can observe a series of rituals everyday all throughout the eight-day holiday. You can also have special additions to the daily prayer service as well as a section for blessing after meals. Unlike a Sabbath-like holiday, you have no obligation of refraining from activities forbidden during the Sabbath. You can still go to work, but you should leave early to be home and kindle the lights on nightfall. You can also send your kids to school. You can exchange small gift every night such as games and books. In order to commemorate the importance of oil, you should serve fried foods.
There are a number of activities that you can do during this holiday. To add to the excitement of the holiday, Hanukkah gelt is distributed to children. This usually comes in small coins. However, adults may be given larger amounts of money. You can also watch your children play with dreidel, a four-sided spinning top usually played by children during this event. Every side is stamped with a Hebrew letter (N, G, H, S) representing Nes Gadol Haya Sham which means “A great miracle happened there.” This refers to the miracle of the oil at the holy temple of Beit Hamikdash.
During the festival, there is a custom of eating foods that are baked or fried in oil. This is done to commemorate the miracle of a small flask of oil that kept the flame in the temple alight for eight consecutive days. Traditional foods that you may serve during the festival include latkes or potato pancakes, jam-filled doughnuts, bimuelos or fritters, and sufganiyot or a deep-fried doughnut.
Besides the traditional strawberry filling, bakeries in Israel use vanilla cream, cappuccino, caramel, chocolate cream and others. It is also customary to eat cheese products during the festival. This is to commemorate the participation of Judith and the women in the trials of Hanukkah.