Friday, December 11, 2009
Happy first night of Chanukah, Hanukkah, or however you spell it! Many families traditionally make latkes to eat as a celebratory treat; this mixture of grated potatoes, onions, egg, and flour is fried in oil and served with either applesauce or sour cream. These potato pancakes (latkes) are very similar to hashbrowns. They are fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days. This was the result of a Jewish uprising, about 200 years Before the Common Era, against King Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) who outlawed Judaism, looted the Holy Temple, and massacred Jews. Judah Maccabee, his brothers, and his father are the heroes of this story, having convinced the smaller in number and less armed Jews to fight for the right to practice Judaism. After the fighting and looting there was only enough oil to keep the 'Eternal Light' (still found today in synagogues throughout the world) for one day. It normally took more than one day to gather the olives and process them to produce oil for the sacred lamp. The oil miraculously lasted for eight days, giving the Jews enough time to get more oil, clean the Holy Temple and rededicate it. Chanukah is translated to mean readedicate or consecrate. Okay, great! Now you have the condensed version of the story. Where do the dreidels come from? When Judaism was outlawed, supposedly the Jews who still gathered to study the Torah and practice Judaism, kept spinning tops handy to conceal their studying and praying. If anyone came nosing around, it looked merely like a group of friends playing a game. The letters on the dreidel (everywhere except for Israel) are Nun, Gimmel, Hay, and Shin. These letters start the four words in the Hebrew sentence that translates to "A great miracle happened there!" In Israel you are more likely to find a dreidel with Nun, Gimmel, Hay, and Pay, for "A great miracle happened here!" But I digress (I know, you're shocked.) So anyway, this year we've started off the holiday by making doughnuts instead of latkes; doughnuts are also a pretty common treat during Chanukah, seeing as they are deep fried in oil! We made some healthier doughnuts though, for what it's worth. I'm also hard at work putting the final touches on a very large menorah that will be taking over the decorations in our front yard! I will be sure to post pictures when it's complete! Our neighborhood has several homes decorated so beautifully in celebration of Christmas; why not celebrate our freedom by sharing this fun holiday with our neighbors by decorating?! Well, one really good reason would be that Chanukah is a holiday that celebrates our victory in a war waged against being forced to assimilate! Yet, many Jewish families exchange presents for all eight nights of the holiday, have parties, and decorate! Nonetheless we have decided to celebrate our freedom by decorating festively and sharing the fun with our family, friends, and neighbors! We sincerely hope that your holiday season and new year are celebrated with happiness, health, and lots of joy!