Jews commemorate victory and miracle with Hanukkah

Friday, November 30, 2007 | 3:00 p.m. CST; updated 4:43 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

The eight-day Hanukkah celebration begins at sundown Tuesday.

A bit of history: Around 165 B.C., the king of Syria destroyed Jewish places of worship and demanded that the Jews adopt Greek beliefs. A small group of Jews, led by Judah Maccabee and his brothers, rebelled and won.


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After their victory, the Jews hurried to rededicate their temple but discovered there was only enough oil to last a day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for a whopping eight days. Hanukkah celebrates this miracle.

The ritual candle-holder, or menorah, has nine branches, one for each night of Hanukkah plus the “shamash”, or “leader” candle used to light the others.

Hanukkah candles are placed on the menorah from right to left but lit from left to right to welcome the newest addition to the bunch.

Latkes, or potato pancakes, are often prepared for the holiday. These oily foods remind Jews of the miracle. (And who doesn’t love an excuse to eat fried food?)

Hanukkah is actually not as significant as Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur or Passover. It is one of the best-known Jewish holidays, however, because it falls during the Christmas season.

Because the translation from Hebrew to English can be tricky, there are several English spellings for Hanukkah, but rest assured: They are still the same celebration.

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