Hanukkah oh Hanukkah come light the menorah! Let’s have a party we’ll all dance the horah! Hanukkah is the festival of lights. During this time, the darkest time of year, we celebrate the miracle of light, and it is a holiday that I enjoy ever so much.
In Judaism, Hanukkah is merely a minor festival; our big holidays, or “holy days” are Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Hanukkah lasts 8 days and involves the nightly lighting of the Menorah (referred to also as a Hanukiah). What is a Menorah or Hanukiah? It is a candelabrum with 8 candle holders in a row and a separate candle holder for the “Shamash.” The Shamash is used to light the other 8 candles and is necessary since the Hanukkah lights are for the sole purpose of viewing.
So, what is this miracle of which I speak? The miracle we celebrate at Hanukkah commemorates the victory that took place after the King of Syria (Antiochus) and his forces desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees victoriously took back the Temple. Unfortunately, upon retaking this sacred place, it looked as though it would not be possible to keep the eternal flame lit — only a small container of oil remained. However, this little bit of oil, which should have been enough to last only one day, fueled the flame in the Temple for 8 days, which was the amount of time needed to obtain additional oil. Hence the miracle.
We light the Menorah each night of Hanukkah (by the way, it’s also spelled Chanukah, both are correct) and we also say special blessings over the candles that we do not say at any other time of year. We also sing lovely Hanukkah songs (such as the one I started this post off with) and eat lots of fried foods to commemorate the miracle of the oil.