Hanukkah, no matter how you spell it, is still a centuries old celebration of the victory of the Jewish people over the country of Syria, who at that time, ruled over the land of Israel. Around 175 B. C. Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes declared that Jews could no longer practice Judaism. The Temple in Jerusalem was looted.
After several years of hardship, the Jewish people, under the leadership of Judah Maccabee and his brothers, rose up and revolted. They won back the right to practice their religion and reclaimed the Temple.
After the Temple was cleaned and a new altar and holy vessels made, it came time to light the menorah with a special olive oil. Unfortunately, only enough oil for one day could be found. Yet this oil burned for eight days, enough time to get a new supply of the oil. To commemorate this miracle, the Jewish sages declared that an eight day festival be held. This festival is called Hanukkah.
In modern time, each Jewish child is given a menorah when they start attending Sunday School. Many children use their menorah year after year, lighting the candles, reciting the blessings and singing either "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" or "Rock of Ages" with their parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters.
As a child growing up in the sixties, I remember bringing my menorah home with a box of brightly colored candles supplied by our Temple. Each night, we would light new candles, adding an additional one, to mark the nights of Hanukkah. By the eighth night, there would be a row of eight brightly lit candles glowing.
Originally, Hanukkah was not meant as a time for gift giving. Nor was it a time for outdoor decoration with lights. In the second half of the 20th century, Jewish parents began giving gifts to the children. This was to prevent them from feeling left out by the gifts that their non-Jewish friends got for Christmas.
Usually my parents would give me a small gift on the first night of Hanukkah and then a larger gift on the last night. The joke would always be, 'how do you fit the gift under the menorah?' Although there are eight nights, it didn't mean you got a gift every night.
In recent years, Hanukkah, like Christmas, has become more secular and commercial. It is not uncommon at night to see houses decorated outside with Jewish stars and menorahs. In some mixed faith families, these decorations are combined with Christmas lights and Santa with his eight reindeers.
To celebrate the holidays, some families celebrate Chrismukkah, which is an attempt to merge Christmas and Hanukkah. Instead of a Christmas tree, they will put up a Hanukkah bush.
I have been to houses where the children attend Sunday School and have been Bar Mitzvah, and the living room is decorated with a tree, presents and lights.
Whatever your faith, have a happy holiday this year. If you want to, you can sing some traditional Hanukkah songs. See the words below.
It has a lovely body, with leg so short and thin.
When it gets all tired, it drops and then I win!
Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, with leg so short and thin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, it drops and then I win!
My dreidel's always playful. It loves to dance and spin.
A happy game of dreidel, come play now let's begin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, it loves to dance and spin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel. Come play now let's begin.
I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.
When it's dry and ready, with dreidel I shall play.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, with dreidel I shall play.