Winter Holiday Series: Hanukkah
- By Alison Lesley --
- 02 Dec 2013 --
Hanukkah, also known as the both the Feast of Dedications and the Festival of Lights, is a well known holiday in the Jewish religion. The name of the holiday is the Jewish word indicating dedication. The purpose of Hanukkah is re-dedicating Jerusalem’s holy temple after the victory of the Jewish over the Greeks of Syria.
The History of Hanukkah
After the seizing of the Jewish Temple by the Syrian soldiers of Greece the temple was then used to worship Zeus, the God of the Sky. Though this was very upsetting to the Jewish community they would not fight back because they feared what would happen to them if they did.
Following these events Antiochus, the emperor of the Syrian-Greek community declared the act of practicing Judaism to be an offense punishable by death. Antiochus also declared that the Jewish community should worship the gods of the Greek community.
Modiin, a Jewish village, began to experience much resistance of its people. The Greeks required the Jewish to participate in practices that are frowned upon in their religion. This led to a mass killing of the village residents. Once the fighting ceased, Mattahias, whom the villagers were fighting to defend when they were killed, and his family fled to the mountains to work with other Jewish community members in order to fight back against the Greeks. The outcome was that they took control of their village back from the Greeks and then returned to the temple in Jerusalem that started it all. Once the Jewish had control of their own temple again they burned oil in a menorah for eight days. This is how the tradition of Hanukkah began and the reason it is eight days long.
Though in the early days of Hanukkah it was considered among the less important Jewish holidays it has become more widely celebrated and acknowledged because it generally occurs around the same time as Christmas does. Jewish families who have children often celebrate Hanukkah in an attempt to distract their children from the Christmas celebrations they see friends and classmates engaging in.
Traditions Associated With Hanukkah
There are several universal traditions practiced by Jewish individuals who celebrate Hanukkah. The most common and well known tradition is the lighting of a menorah. One game that is popular during Hanukkah celebrations, especially around children, is spinning the dreidel. This is a top with four sides to it, each of which has letters of the Hebrew outfit written on it.
Foods Associated With Hanukkah
Hanukkah is about celebrating the miracle that is oil. As a result, fried food is eaten during Hanukkah celebrations. Some of the fried foods people traditionally eat include sufganiyot and latkes, which are pancakes that consist of onions and shredded potatoes fried in oil. Applesauce is served on the side to accompany the pancakes. Sufganiyots are simply fried donuts with a jelly filling and confectioner’s powder sprinkled on the top.
Beginning in the Middle Ages people began eating dairy foods during Hanukkah. This is a result of the story of Judith, who was considered a beauty by the Jewish community. She saved her village when it was in danger of being damaged by the Babylonians. The legend states that Judith got into the enemy camp of the Babylonians by offering them wine and cheese baskets. The General in charge of the enemy camp happily ate the cheese and drank the wine. After he passed out from drinking too much wine, Judith used his sword to behead him and returned to his village with his head in her basket. As a result, the Babylonian people fled from Jewish territory. Since Judith was the one that made this happen, cheese is consumed during Hanukkah in order to honor her for her brave actions that gave the Jewish community a newfound freedom.
Hanukkah is a holiday with much history and a story to tell that has fascinated people for centuries.