“Hebrew for “dedication,” this eight-day-long celebration commemorates just that: the purging and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE after the Jews’ successful uprising against the Greeks.
Hanukkah features one of the best villains in all of Jewish history, Antiochus IV. As his nicknames—“the Illustrious” and “Bearer of Victory”—suggest, the ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire was fond of waging war. He was engaging in that pastime in Egypt when a rumor circulated in the region that he’d been killed. Meanwhile, Jason, a Hellenized Jew who’d been deposed as the Temple’s high priest, heard of Antiochus’s death and saw an opportunity to reclaim his position and marched on Jerusalem with 1,000 men…”
Read the thrilling conclusion of the history at “Hanukkah: A Guide for the Perplexed” on Tablet Magazine.
Something new I learned from the article: “Given its themes of Jewish nationalism and rebellion, the rabbis downplayed Hanukkah’s importance throughout the centuries in exile, fearing it might inspire their flock to imitate the Maccabees and take up arms.”
(Apparently they were more scared of the faces of disappointed Jewish children at Christmas time, because they reinstated the celebration to coincide more or less with Santa’s arrival to Christian homes in December.)
- Lighting a candle for each of the eight nights, using a special shamash (servant) candle to do so. (why?)
- Giving gelt (money) or chocolates to children
- Eating latkes and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) in honor of the miracle of the oil
All of this starts tomorrow night! Now I just need someone to tell me where to find Hanukkah candles in Sant Antoni…