Source: Snibbe, Kurt, Here is a primer for Hanukkah 2018, which begins Dec. 2, The Press-Enterprise, The Orange Country Register, December 2, 2018, https://www.pe.com/2018/12/02/here-is-a-primer-for-hanukkah-2018-which-begins-dec-2/.
Hanukkah, also referred to as the Festival of Lights, began at sunset yesterday. Hanukkah is celebrated for 8 days so we will be celebrating, eating latkes, and lighting candles until December 10.
Here is a brief look at the origins of Hanukkah and some of the traditional ways it is celebrated.
Is it Hanukkah or Chanukah?
When I was little and lived in the midwest, it was Chanukah. Now, I live on the West side of the country and it is Hanukkah. Hanukkah appears to be the one most widely used, but Chanukah is more of a favorite with traditionists like me.
Hanukkah means “dedication.”
The Origins of Hanukkah
In 167 B.C., the area known today as Israel was occupied by the Seleucid Empire. The empire at its peak stretched from modern Greece to Iran. The empire practiced Greek religion and forbade Judaism. Some Jews converted to the state religion. A rural Jewish priest, Mattathias the Hasmonean, sparked a revolt against the empire. When Mattathias died in 166 B.C., his son Judah, known as Judah Maccabee (“the Hammer”), took up the fight.
After two years, the Jews had driven the empire out of Jerusalem. Judah called on his followers to cleanse the Second Temple, rebuild its altar and light its gold menorah, whose seven branches represented wisdom, light and divine inspiration and were meant to be kept burning every night.
During that time there was only enough untainted olive oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, but the flames continued for eight nights. This wondrous event inspired the Jews to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival.
Latkes – Potato or Cheese
Probably the favorite food eaten during Hanukkah is the latke. Most people are familiar with the potato pancake version of the latke, which is usually fried in olive oil to symbolize the miracle of Hanukkah oil.
However, back in the late 1400s, Italian Jews used ricotta fried in olive oil.
Here are a couple of links to both the potato version and the ricotta version for you to make your own and enjoy this tasty food.
Potato Pancake Latke – New York Times
Ricotta and Spinach Pancake Latke – Rabbi Barbara
National and State Profiles of Jewish Population
Overall, there are 4.2 million adults, or 1.8 percent of the U.S. adult population, who identify as Jewish when asked about their religion. Adding children and Jewish adults who do not identify as such when asked about religion, the total population estimate of Jews in the U.S. is at least 7.2 million.
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