Hanukkah: ‘The holiday celebrates religious freedom and bringing light to darkness’

Religion

Utah (ABC4 News) — December is filled with celebrations, traditions, faith, and culture. 2020 has been a year with challenging experiences for many. In a month filled with all kinds of meaning and feelings, Jewish communities around the world are turning their focus to light instead of darkness.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire, according to History.com.

The word Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew. It begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December each year. In 2020, Hanukkah begins Dec. 10 and runs through Dec. 18.

The eight-day Jewish celebration revolves around the kindling of a nine-branched menorah.

“When the Jews recaptured the temple there was only oil sufficient to last for one night. The oil, however, lasted for 8 nights. The holiday is celebrated by lighting candles, one additional one for each night of the 8 nights that the holiday is celebrated,” said Andrea Alcabes, Executive Director for the I.J. & Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center.

On each of the eight nights, a candle is added to the menorah after sundown, the ninth candle, called the shamash is used to light the others.

As the candle ritual takes place, it is common to recite blessings and display the menorah prominently in a window as a reminder to others of the miracle that inspired the special celebration.

The holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games, and gifts. Traditional Hanukkah foods are fried in oil; potato pancakes, called latkes or jam-filled donuts, called sufganiyot, are popular in many Jewish households, according to Alcabes.

Other Hanukkah traditions could include playing with four-sided spinning tops called dreidels and exchanging gifts.

The I.J. & Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center, located in Salt Lake City is celebrating a little differently this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. “In celebrating Hanukkah, we wish for light and peace and freedom to return to all of our lives,” said Andrea Alcabes.

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