Hanukkah or Festival of Lights, begins at sundown on the 25th day of the Jewish calendar month of Kislev. It commemorates the survival of Judaism, beginning with their battle for religious freedom against the Greek-Syrians.
The victory was won, the temple was reaffirmed but there was only enough oil, in its lamp, to burn one day. Miraculously it continued to illuminate the temple eight days. Hence the name “Festival of Lights” and eight days of celebrations.
Jewish celebrations and holy days of worship must commence promptly at sundown. On the evening preceding the first day of Hanukkah, a reading from the Torah takes place, a blessing is recited and the menorah is lit.
Festivities include offerings of gifts, lively music, and children’s games that feature a four-sided top called a dreidel. There’s no official color scheme, however, colors of the Israeli flag have been adopted and are often reflected on cookies and gift-wrapping materials.
In Jewish-American households the Hanukkah menu includes crispy golden latkes, fried breads and sufganiot. The starring entrée of the traditional feast is chicken or brisket. Dessert platters include filled pastries called rugelach.
Hanukkah is all about rejoicing. At its conclusion, families with both Jewish and Christian members can continue to rejoice as they swap out yarmulkes for plushy, red Santa hats to keep the party going without missing a beat.