Translation: You may have seen it spelled Hanukkah, or perhaps Chanukkah or even Hanukah. Despite its vast options for English translations all of the spellings elicit thoughts of celebration and joy within the Jewish Community. Often known as the “Festival of Lights,” Hanukkah is the eight-day celebration that takes place each winter and commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Israel.
Origins of Hanukkah
Dating back to the second century, BC, the people of Israel were being forced to cast aside their beliefs and were in the midst of a war with the “mightiest armies on earth.” Lead by Judah the Maccabee, a small group of faithful Jews reclaimed the Holy Temple and rededicated it. When the group attempted to light the Menorah (seven branched candelabrum) in the Temple, they realized they only had enough oil for one night. Somehow, miraculously the oil lasted for eight days. Thus, began the tradition of Hanukkah.
As with all Jewish holidays, Hanukkah begins at sundown on the date dictated by the Jewish calendar. Though it doesn’t fall on the same date each year, it typically coincides with the month of December. At sundown, each family begins the lighting of the Menorah. On the Menorah, there is a tall center candle called the shamash candle. This candle is used to light all of the other subsequent candles. On the first night, the shamash candle lights one additional candle. As the candle is being lit, a special blessing is recited to a traditional tune and celebratory songs are sung afterward. This ritual is repeated for eight nights, until all nine candles (including the shamah candle) are lit. Each night, after the candles are lit and the songs are sung, family and friends gather to eat and rejoice. Children often play a game of dreydl, a game played with a top-like toy that uses Hebrew symbols to determine who wins and losses. Traditionally children were given money, or gelt, as a reward for good behavior, but in modern times, each night of Hanukkah brings gifts and presents for young and old.
Hanukkah Celebrations in Apex
This year, Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 12 and ends at sundown on December 20. For several years, the Chabad of Cary has hosted a Hanukkah celebration in downtown Apex. In 2016, the theme for the celebration was Fire on Ice and boasted an ice sculpture Menorah, food, crafts and celebration. This year the Chabad will once again be hosting a Hanukkah celebration in downtown Apex on December 17. Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar said that the Chabad of Cary will be hosting a “Children’s Chanukkah Wonderland with games, crafts and holiday fun at the Apex Community Center in the afternoon, followed by the Menorah lighting at 5:00pm.” Although the theme for the 2017 celebration is still top secret, it promises to be as amazing as ever.
Winter is the season when friends and family come together from near and far to celebrate being together and share their traditions. It is a time to learn and enjoy customs that may be different from your own. Apex is fortunate to be a town comprised of many cultures and traditions and residents who embrace their differences and learn from one another. Taking time to love and find peace in a world that is in need of patience and kindness is what all holidays are about.