25 Days of Christmas (14)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

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I really like learning about other cultures and religions so I thought I'd do some posts dedicated to other holidays other than Christmas that are celebrated around this time of year. One of these holidays is Hanukkah and this year it was celebrated from November 27 to December 5.

"The Maccabees" (1844)
Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire of the 2nd century BCE. The Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC) was a conflict between a Judean rebel group (the Maccabees) and the Seleucid Empire sparked by a Jewish priest named Mattathias when he refused to worship the Greek gods at a time when Jewish religious practices were forbidden. In 166 BC, Judah Maccabee, son of Mattathias, led an army of Jewish protesters to victory over the Seleucid dynasty in guerrilla warfare. After the victory, the Maccabees entered Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple, reestablishing traditional Jewish worship.

An example of a Menorah.

This traditional Jewish festival observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of the Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar. It's observed by the kindling of the lights of the nine-branched Menorah, one additional light on each night of the holiday. The extra light is called a shamash (Hebrew for "attendant") and it's purpose is to have a light available for practical use because using the Hanukkah lights themselves for purposes other than publicizing and meditating upon Hanukkah is forbidden. Some people light the shamash first and then use it to light the rest of the candles. The significance of lighting the candles is to "illuminate from without," so that when a passerby sees it they will be reminded of the significance of the holiday. Most people place the Menorah near a prominent window or near the front door for this purpose. When lighting the candles, there are typically three blessings that are recited. On the first night of Hanukkah, all three blessings are recited and every night after only the first two are recited.

There are also a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the holiday, some are family-based while others are communal. Many families exchange small gifts each night and fried foods are eaten to commemorate the importance of oil during the celebration of Hanukkah. There are also additions to the daily prayers. 

It's really an amazing experience just learning about different cultures and how they celebrate certain holidays. The only thing I knew about Hanukkah was that it was a Jewish holiday and they lit candles on this really nice looking candelabra. Now I know the history of the holiday and the significance of the Menorah. Hopefully you've learned something new as well! 

Also, if you are of Jewish faith and celebrate Hanukkah, please do let me know if any of this information is incorrect so I can fix it. I got all my information from Wikipedia so I'm not sure if it's all correct.

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