Celebrating Hanukah

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Selma Times-Journal

While most of Selma will be exchanging gifts under the tree, enjoying eggnog and singing carols on Christmas morning, a small minority won’t be.

By a curious alignment of the Jewish lunar calendar, Hanukah starts on Christmas Day this year, which means that while the yule log burns in most homes, some of Selma’s residents will be lighting the Hanukah candles and enjoying latkes at holiday gatherings.

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Hanukah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees, led by Judah, over the Greeks, an occupying force in Israel in 165 BCE (Before Common Era). According to the book of the Maccabees, Judah and his followers defeated the Syrians and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem from them.

When they began rededicating the Temple, they discovered that most of the oil used to light the seven-branched menorah (lamp) in the Temple had been profaned.

It took eight days to prepare ritually pure oil. The Maccabees, however, had enough to light the candle for one day.

Then, the miracle of Hanukah occurred. The oil burned for eight days, enough time to prepare more oil and completely rededicate the Temple.

So, every year, during the winter, Jews all over the world, including Selma, celebrate the Hanukah miracle by lighting the menorah, one candle for each of the eight days.

To further commemorate the miracle of the oil, Jews eat foods fried in oil, like potato pancakes (latkes) and donuts.

Many Jews also exchange gifts, sometimes one for each of the eight nights.