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Jewish Festivals

    Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights. This festival lasts for eight days and is held in early December. The date is different each year as the Jewish calendar changes each year.

    This festival is a time of great happiness and joy. It is held in remembrance of a miracle that took place in Israel many centuries ago. At the time Israel or Judea as it was once known was under the rule of the Syrian King, Antiochus.

    He would not allow the Jews to worship their own god and instead used the temple to sacrifice pigs to the Greek Gods making their once holy Temple unholy.

    Even though they were greatly outnumbered they fought for their right to worship their god and so they under the leadership of Judah and his brothers fought against the king and his army defeating them.

    Their first action upon conquering the king and his army was to clean and re-dedicate the Temple. To carry this out they had to relight the Temple Menorah, or light, which was meant to burn at all times. This light represented eternal light. However they were unable to find enough oil to last for more then a day, but went ahead anyway. Their faith was rewarded as the light lasted for eight days while new oil could be prepared.

    Hanukkah is the Hebrew word for dedication. Every year in memory of that time all families light their own Menorah. The Menorah holds eight candles. On each night of Hanukkah one candle is lit until all are burning brightly.

    The lighting ceremony takes place before the evening meal. The meal consists of fried foods as well as maybe Pancakes or Potato Latkes. The oil used for the frying of the pancakes is in reference to the cleaning and rededication of the Temple.

    It is prohibited to fast or to eulogize the dead on Chanukah. Some say that it is a mitzvah to have somewhat more festive meals on Chanukah. There is also a custom to eat dairy foods on Chanukah.

    One should speak about the miracles of Chanukah with his family. It is customary to increase the amount of charity one gives on Chanukah, particularly to poor Torah scholars.

    There is a tradition to play with a "dreidel" on Chanukah. A dreidel is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters distributed one to each side. These letters stand for the sentence: "Nes Gadol Haya Sham", which means "A Great Miracle Happened There."

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