Eight Nights of Hanukkah at MHS!

Meg Brady, Reporter

Hanukkah is one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays, eight-days of celebration that also goes by the Festival of Lights. Similar to Christmas in several respects, Hanukkah is a holiday that gathers together candles, food, family, and friends. Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew, according to reformjudaism.org, commemorating the victory of a group of Jewish rebels over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E., the strongest army in the area, and the following release of the Temple in Jerusalem from Syrian grasp.

Modern celebrations of Hanukkah focus on family and friends, in the same way modern Christians celebrate Christmas. The lighting of the Menorah, additionally called a Hanukkiyah, is an iconic part of Hanukkah. Part of the origin of Hanukkah is the oil miracle, when, after the victors reclaimed the temple in Jerusalem, they decided to light the temple’s menorah, but there was only 1 day worth of oil. However, according to their beliefs, by a miracle from God, the oil lasted 8 days. This tradition is known as the festival of lights.

Medina students like Jeremy Koci practice this tradition every year with their families. “My family also celebrates Christmas because we are Messianic Jews, so {historically} we are Jewish, but we believe that Jesus is the son of God who came to set us free (so we are Christians too),” Mr. Koci tells me.

In keeping with strict tradition, everyone gets one present per day, leading up to the last day, and the best present yet. But his family, and many others, stray from perfect tradition. Whether it’s giving all the presents on the last day or giving them periodically, not using the center candle on the menorah to light all the others, not eating foods cooked with oil like the potato pancakes known as latkes, or not receiving gelt, chocolate disguised as silver and gold coins, all families’ traditions are a little different.

Celebrating the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and the end of year holiday of another religion isn’t uncommon either. Due to marrying someone of that religion or choosing to follow another religion personally but still celebrating with your family could lead you to celebrate two different holidays at once.

Medina resident Jamie Marks raises her children to celebrate her family’s holiday, Hanukkah, and her husband’s family holiday, Christmas. “I feel it’s important to my heritage to continue the celebration with our children. My 9-year old son has taken an interest in learning the prayer we say as we light the menorah which requires learning Hebrew words.”

Generally, the two religious festivals don’t clash with each other, even though Hanukkah follows the Hebrew Calendar. “The eight-nights of Hanukkah… may occur at any time from late November to late December. Some years it can fall closer to Thanksgiving and some years closer to Christmas.” Mrs. Marks informs me. Overall, Hannukkah is a wonderful time for family and friends if you celebrate it, and if not, it is a wonderful opportunity to expand your knowledge about another religion. Happy Hanukkah everyone!