Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

Today is the first day of Hanukkah, the Jewish "Festival of Lights", which will continue on until December 9th. This holiday commemorates a miracle associated with the re-dedication of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem after it was desecrated by enemy forces in the 2nd century BCE.  There was only enough oil to fuel the eternal flame that was supposed to burn in the temple for one day but it would take eight days to make more. Miraculously, the the flame kept burning until the new oil was ready.

Various historic Hanukkah Menorahs (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hanukkah1.jpg)

There a numerous traditions associated with Hanukkah. In commemoration of the flame that burned for eight nights, candles are progressively lit each night on a Menorah with nine arms. People also often play with special four-sided spinning tops known as dreidels and gifts are exchanged in many families. There are also certain foods that are associated particularly with Hanukkah, including potato pancakes known as latkes and fried, jam-filled doughnuts known as paczki or sufganiyot. Supposedly these are linked to this festival partly because they are prepared using oil, hence linking them to the miracle at the center of the holiday.

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