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Hanukkah decoded

By Jonathan Fox
December 22, 2011

With so much information available on the Internet these days, I thought it might be interesting to explore the meaning of various terms and traditions associated with Hanukkah, which started on December 20 this year. Having been raised with a Jewish education, I was surprised to discover some unknown facts and a few rare insights, as well as historical tidbits, songs and poems that enliven homes as families gather all around the world to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights.

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah or Chanukah (Hebrew for “dedication”) is the annual festival of the Jewish people. It begins on the 25th day of Kislev, the third month of the Jewish calendar, corresponding, approximately, to December in the Gregorian calendar, and lasts for eight successive days. Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights, Feast of Dedication and Feast of the Maccabees. (www.wikipedia.com).

Is that a candelabra?

Sort of... it’s called a Menorah and there are two varieties. Inside a temple, one can find a seven-branched lampstand like the ones used in the ancient Tabernacle in the desert and Temple in Jerusalem, a symbol of Judaism since ancient times and the emblem of the modern state of Israel. During Hanukkah, the menorah is a nine-branched candelabrum, which serves to remind us of how a few hours worth of lamp oil miraculously burned for eight days and nights, thereby saving the temple from being destroyed. This biblical story is retold during the season, as parents pass the story on to a new generation. At the website www.myjewishlearning.com I found an unusual recipe for “Marshmallow Menorahs” which unfolds thusly:

The idea is to let children make a menorah using frosting and marshmallows. Give each child a piece of tagboard 11 inches by four inches, 10 marshmallows, and nine candles. Have the children spread some white frosting on the bottom of each marshmallow and then put them onto the tagboard. With the frosting, “glue” a second marshmallow on top of the middle marshmallow to create the shammash or “servant.” Poke birthday candles into each marshmallow to create a menorah. Sweet!

Food, glorious food!