Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy Holidays: Chanukah!

It is December and that means only one thing: HOLIDAYS!! Get your Christmas tree up, your dreidel spinning, or light your Kwanzaa candles! We here at OMSA are very aware that many of our students and fans celebrate December in their own way and we wanted to highlight some of the celebrations occurring this month. We will be posting a description of a holiday every Tuesday for the first three weeks in December. This gives us the opportunity to share with our readers what we have learned in our research.

First up we have Chanukah!

Chanukah is the eight-day festival of light which begins on the eve of Kislev 25. This holiday celebrates “the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.” This year Chanukah will be celebrated from Sunset of December 11 through December 19, 2009.

Chanukah customs include eating foods fried in oil -- latkes (commonly known as potato pancakes) and sufganiot (similar to doughnuts). Children usually play with the dreidel, a spinning top, which has inscribed the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, meaning "a great miracle happened there"[pictured to the right].

A candle is also lit every night on the menorah. As one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish faith, the menorah is a seven-branched candelabrum used in the Temple.

You may be asking yourself, “what is the real word for this holiday, Hanukah or Chanukah?” Well in the Hebrew, Chanukah is pronounced with the letter "chet." The chet's "ch" is a guttural, throaty sound – like the "ch" in Johann Bach. There is not an equivalent in English. "H" is the closest to the sound, but it also doesn’t give it justice. So in essence it can be written "Chanukah" or "Hanukkah," and still be correct.

So we hope that you have learned a little bit about Chanukah and to those of you who will be celebrating: Happy Chanukah to you and yours!

Sources: http://www.chabad.org ;