The Eight-Day Festival Of Hannukah Begins Today
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights is an eight-day Jewish festival, whose date is based on the Hebrew calendar and therefore, varies annually. This year, the 25th day of the month of Kislev, which is when the holiday begins, happens to fall today - December 20th, 2011.
Like most religious festivals, it is a joyful eight-day period during which families come together to seek out blessings, eat delicious meals and play games. For some lucky kids it even means receiving a gift every night!
The story behind this all-important Jewish holiday dates back 2,200 years, when a Greek king tried to impose his culture on the people in his territory, despite the fact that most of them practiced the Jewish religion. The people rebelled and fought for three years before reclaiming the temple on Jerusalem's Mount Moriah. Inside the temple, they discovered a small amount of oil, which they estimated would keep the temple light burning for one day. To their surprise, the oil lasted for eight days, which is why, the holiday is celebrated for that length of time.
Thanks to the legend, the most important ritual of the holiday is the lighting of the Menorah, a holder that fits nine candles. Eight candles are lit one at time to mark each day of the festival. The ninth, known as the Shamash (servant), is used to light the others. Over the years, Menorahs have become increasingly elaborate and unique. This year, a French chocolate maker has come up with a yummy concoction, where instead of adding a candle a day, one simply plucks it off the Menorah and chows it down. To keep some semblance of tradition, he did add some almond oil to the Shamash, so that it can actually be lit!
While families entertain themselves in many ways, the most traditional and popular game played is using a four-sided spinning top known as the Dreidel. The multiple player game, entails each player beginning with an equal number of game pieces, which could be anything from candy to money. Depending on their spinning prowess they can either lose a few or all their pieces to a mutual pot, or, get everything that's accumulated inside and declare themselves the winner.
As for the favorite food? While people in the USA prefer Latkes, in Israel, the birthplace of the festival, the favorite food for this traditional event is Sufganiyot, a jelly donut cooked in oil. All in all, it is a fun-filled eight days, just like festivals should be. Happy Hanukkah to all of you!
Resources: about.com, wikipedia.org