Chanukah - Hanukkah
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According to Wikipedia, Hanukkah or Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the forces of Antiochus IV and commemorates the "miracle of the container of oil." According to the Talmud, following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for the eight days it took to press, prepare, and consecrate fresh olive oil. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar. Hanukkah may occur from late November to late December of the Gregorian calendar.
Chanukah is observed by the kindling of the lights of a special candelabrum, the Menorah, one light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. An extra light called a "guard" or "servant" is also lit each night, and is given a distinct location, usually higher or lower than the others. The purpose of the extra light is to adhere to the prohibition, specified in the Talmud, against using the Hanukkah lights for anything other than publicizing and meditating on the Hanukkah story. The extra candle is used to light the other lights. The lights can be candles or oil lamps. Electric lights are sometimes used and are acceptable in places where open flame is not permitted, such as a hospital room.
There are several songs associated with the festival of Hanukkah. The most well known in English-speaking countries include "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" and "Chanukah, Oh Chanukah."
Potato pancakes, known as "latkes," are traditionally associated with Hanukkah. There is a custom of eating foods fried or baked in oil, preferably olive oil. Many families have the custom of eating fruit-filled doughnuts which are deep fried in oil.
The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top that children play with on Hanukkah. Some say the dreidel game is played to commemorate a game devised by the Jews to camouflage the fact that they were studying Torah, which was outlawed by Greeks. The Jews would gather in caves to study, posting a lookout to alert the group to the presence of Greek soldiers. If soldiers were spotted, the Jews would hide their scrolls and spin tops, so the Greeks thought they were gambling, not learning.
Hanukkah "gelt" is often distributed to children to enhance their enjoyment of the holiday. The amount is usually in small coins, although grandparents or other relatives may give larger sums as an official Hanukkah gift. Twentieth-century American chocolatiers picked up on the gift - coin concept by creating chocolate "gelt," chocolate shaped and stamped like coins and wrapped in gold or silver foil.
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