There was a time that I would have just written a post about Christmas facts and left it at that. After all, I am Catholic (sort of), went to Catholic school for twelve years (which is why I am only “sort of” a Catholic), and have been sheltered from just about every other religion. But, as life moves on, I have discovered there are, like, lots of religions out there. Of course, I didn’t need to know anything about them and had no desire to learn. But then, this political correctness thing came into being and I was not suppose to say “Merry Christmas” anymore.
This bothered me. First, I love Christmas and think everyone should be merry. Second, saying “Happy Holidays” sounds so stale and non-committal. I continued to say “Merry Christmas”. If I meet someone of Jewish upbringing, I will say “Happy Chanukah”. In fact, the only holiday I will not acknowledge (and have not had to, so far) is Kwanza (the “holiday” of political correctness).
So, I am always going to say “Merry Christmas”. And there is nothing that will stop me. But that does not mean I can’t learn about the other holidays. Now, my daughter is married to a Jewish kid. I like him a lot and like his parents more than I liked my ex-wife’s family. So I think it is time to learn a little bit about Chanukah (especially since my grandchild will probably be raised Jewish). What better way to learn about it than to post some interesting facts about Chanukah.
- Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees or Israelites over the Greek-Syrian ruler, Antiochus about 2200 years ago.
- Each night of Hanukkah, an additional candle is placed in the Menorah from right to left, and then lit from left to right. On the last night, all the candles are lit.
- In Yemen, children went from house to house, tins in hand, to collect wicks for the Hanukkah Menorah.
- Traditionally, Hanukkah is a time when children are encouraged and rewarded for their Torah studies. Consequently, it became fashionable to give the children Hanukkah money and presents during the holiday.
- Except in times of religious persecution, the menorah was placed outside the front door or, as is the custom today, displayed in the window of every Jewish home.
- Savings bonds, checks, and small chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil-these are the modern incarnations of the traditional gift known as Hanukkah gelt. “Gelt” is a Yiddish term for “money”.
- Hanukkah is celebrated in the home beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev.
- During Hanukkah, families eat latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly donuts), or other foods which are fried in oil, to celebrate and commemorate the miracle of the Festival of Lights.
- Food eaten on Hanukkah is soaked in oil (no diet on this holiday). This is to celebrate the day’s worth of oil that lasted eight days.
- Around 17.5 million oily doughnuts are eaten in Israel during Hanukkah, commemorating the miracle of oil.
- The word Hanukkah means ‘dedication’. The theory goes, with enough dedication and commitment, God creates miracles.
- On Hanukkah, children play with dreidels – square spinning tops. The dreidel gambling game stems from the Greek-Syrian rule when Jews who wanted to study the Torah were prevented from doing so. Whenever a soldier walked by they would play with dreidels to cover their learning.
- If you were to rank the Jewish holidays by importance, Hanukkah is way down the list. It’s not as religiously significant as Yom Kippur (the day Jews apologize), or quite as historic as Passover (when we celebrate escaping Egypt by not eating pasta for a week).
- Hanerot Hallalu, an ancient Hanukkah song is recited or sang while lighting the candles.
- The word for Hanukkah is not easily transliterated into English. There are sixteen different ways to spell Chanukah in English. They are:
If you are Jewish, none of these things may seem like facts unknown. But for a sheltered Catholic boy, this is all new territory. I spent a good two hours looking this stuff up on the Internet and learned a ton more than I have shown here. Explore the links below to learn more.
Happy Chanukah! (That’s the spelling I choose).
Photos courtesy of: