Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Holidays

This is an old cartoon, but a favorite of mine! And the little singed kitty reminds my of my little boy cat, RB. You see he has actually singed his whiskers on a candle flame!

(Over the years, I have collected little tidbits of information that made me say, "that explains that rather well" but I did not save the credits. So as a disclaimer, some of this is my original text/thoughts and other parts are from an assortment of sources, not limited to but including jewFAQ.org.)

Chanukah, known as the festival of lights, is an eight day festival beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. The Jewish calendar is lunar which is why the dates float on regular calendars. (Just like the moon.)


The history

The history of Chanukah begins in the reign of Alexander the Great. Alexander conquered Syria, Egypt and Palestine, but allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions and retain a certain degree of autonomy. Under this relatively benevolent rule, many Jews assimilated much of Hellenistic culture, adopting the language, the customs and the dress of the Greeks, in much the same way that Jews in America today blend into the secular American society.
More than a century later, a successor of Alexander, Antiochus IV was in control of the region. He began to oppress the Jews severely, placing a Hellenistic priest in the Temple, massacring Jews, prohibiting the practice of the Jewish religion, and desecrating the Temple. Two groups opposed Antiochus: a basically nationalistic group led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his son Judah Maccabee, and a religious traditionalist group who became the Pharisees. The revolution succeeded and the Temple was rededicated.
At the time of the rededication, there was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks. Oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout the night every night. There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle. Note that the holiday commemorates the miracle of the oil, not the military victory: Jews do not glorify war.

Traditions

Chanukah is not a very important religious holiday. The holiday's religious significance is far less than that of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, & Passover to name a few. It is roughly equivalent to Purim in significance.

The only religious observance related to the holiday is the lighting of candles. On the first night, one candle is placed at the far right. The shammus candle is lit and three blessings are recited: a general prayer over candles, a prayer thanking G-d for performing miracles for our ancestors at this time, and a general prayer thanking G-d for allowing us to reach this time of year.

It is traditional to eat fried foods on Chanukah because of the significance of oil to the holiday.

Gift-giving is not a traditional part of the holiday. It is extremely unusual for Jews to give Chanukah gifts to anyone other than their own young children.

Another tradition of the holiday is playing dreidel. The traditional explanation of this game is that during the time of Antiochus' oppression, those who wanted to study Torah (an illegal activity) would conceal their activity by playing games with a top whenever an official or inspector was within sight.
A dreidel is marked with four Hebrew letters: Nun, Gimmel, Heh and Shin. These letters stand for the Hebrew phrase "Nes Gadol Hayah Sham", a great miracle happened there, referring to the miracle of the oil.

If you made it this far, thanks & I hope I did not bore you too much....

I'll post my Hanukkah quilt tomorrow.

6 comments:

grifomaniaco said...

Ah ah, good joke!

Deb R said...

Not boring at all, Amy...very interesting!

I like the cartoon too. :-)

Jeanne said...

The kitties are funny! I've always done lots of different holiday menus at our house, and we share info about the holiday at the table. Brought my boys up learning that "everybody's special!" I'm planning latkes and applesauce for Monday's supper :)
Hugs ~ Jeanne

Laurie Ann said...

Great information, that was very interesting! I didn't know much about it and that was very enlightening! Thanks!

JudyL said...

Amy: Thanks for the info . . very informative.

Laurie said...

LOL at the cartoon Amy! I love it! And happy Hanukkah to you!
Hugs
Laurie