Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday, which roughly coincides with Christmas, commemorating the rededication of the Holy Jewish Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE.
During the Hanukkah festival, which is celebrated for seven nights and starts on the 25th of the month of Kislev, the Jewish month that coincides with November or December in the Gregorian calendar, Jewish people around the world light a candelabra (Menorah) according to each day of Hanukkah. For example, on the first night, one candle is light, on the second night, two candles, and so forth.
In Judaism, Hanukkah is considered also to be a festival of miracles, following the story of the small group of proud Jews called the Maccabees (Macabim in Hebrew) which fought the larger Greek army that occupied The Holy Land at the time.
According to tradition, after the second temple was plundered by the invading armies, one small container of olive oil was left unspoiled in the temple, with all the others being spoiled or pillaged by the invaders. When used to light the Menorah (candelabra), the lone container, which was only supposed to last for one day, kept the flames miraculously glowing for eight full days.
For Jews, this was a form of direct divine intervention in which the Lord enabled the miracle of the olive oil to occur as a sign of his everlasting love for the “chosen” people.
By way of commemoration since the time of the temple, Jews around the world light the candles, which are sometimes made from wax but more often from pure olive oil with a special wick, and recite prayers of hope and peace, with the children of the family receiving small gifts on each night of the festival.
It is customary to eat donuts and latkes (Jewish fried potato cakes) as the oil in them is a reminder of the miraculous temple olive oil, with all its significance. Obviously, Jewish people do not consider calories during this festival, much in the same way Christians forget about their waistline at Christmas time.
Like Christmas, Hanukkah is a time of warmth, reflection, and prayer, as Jewish people, especially Israelis, beseech God to deliver them and allow peace to prevail over the land of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob — the land of Israel.
We wish all our Jewish readers a very happy Hanukkah 2014, and a peaceful and fulfilling year ahead.