Hanukkah is more than a series of funny Adam Sandler songs, and the animated movie based on the songs. It’s called the Festival of Lights for a reason. But what is that reason? Do you remember what it is from history class? All I could remember was the oil stayed lit for eight nights when it should’ve burned out much quicker.
What oil? Saying “the oil” seems vague and leads to confusion. Where was this oil? What was going on? I’m going to do my best to help answer these questions, and provide a short history lesson, in this blog. It’s a complicated history, but I’ll give it my best shot.
According to history.com, Hanukkah commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C., of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. King Antiochus IV Ephiphanes outlawed Jewish practice in 168 B.C. and desecrated the Jewish Temple in the city with a shrine to the Roman god Zeus and then by sacrificing pigs. The Maccabees, a small army, rose up, took back their Temple and resurrected a new altar for their religious offerings.
The menorah, an important item in the Jewish faith, was at the altar and only had enough olive oil to burn for one night. In the Talmud, it’s said that Judah Maccabee and other Jews witnessed the oil in the menorah last for eight nights instead of one. During this time, they were able to find a fresh supply of oil.
The Jewish faith believes this to be a miracle, and the oil burning for eight nights has become the basis for Hanukkah. In fact, Hanukkah translates to “dedication,” in Hebrew. Many Jewish people today are quite dedicated to lighting the candles on the menorah each night during the Festival of Lights.
Lighting the menorah is just one tradition during Hanukkah. But check out these other traditions.
Dreidel, Gelt, And Fried Foods
Children love to spin the dreidel, a kind of top that has four sides with a Hebrew letter on each side. This game is played with gelt, or coins, where the sides indicate whether a player gets pieces of gelt or puts in pieces of gelt.
Eating fried foods is something I wasn’t aware was part of the Hanukkah tradition. But when I read what it was about, it made sense. It ties into the oil. I mean, what do we fry foods in? Oil. A couple popular fried food items are doughnuts and latkes (made from potatoes). The latkes are served with either sour cream or applesauce. Either way, they sound pretty delicious to me.
Hanukkah gelt, as noted above, are coins. Nowadays, you can find chocolate gelt in most stores. I have memories as a little kid eating the chocolate coins from their plastic mesh bags, never knowing their connotation. The foil can be tricky to peel off the chocolate, but the reward is worth it.
A Gift-Giving Occasion
One of the most well-known parts of Hanukkah is the gift giving. Like Adam Sandler sang, “Instead of one day of presents, we have eight crazy nights!” Every Jewish person I’ve known has told me that they open only one present each night.
There are many Hanukkah songs to play around the table each night, from traditional to funny. Kids can sing the Dreidel song, there’s any of the four Hanukkah songs from Adam Sandler, and classics like “Rock of Ages.” I don’t know if this is done in many homes, or if it’s a tradition that only some families do. But I’m curious.
In fact, I’m curious about all of it. I took a class on world religions in college, but I’m certainly far from an expert on Judaism and all the practices and teachings. I’m intrigued by all of it. The history behind it all, the traditions and other aspects.
Hannukkah Is Important
Don’t let all the Christmas hullabaloo convince you that Hanukkah isn’t a big deal holiday. It’s still a major holiday that’s celebrated all over the world. It has the same feeling of family and togetherness that any other holiday does.
The team with Albuquerque Plumbing Heating & Cooling hopes that everyone has a safe and wonderful Hanukkah this year, and that you’re able to spin the dreidel with your families in person.