Hanukkah is a great Jewish religious event and it gets a lot of attention, especially because of its timing around Christmas season. Hard to believe, even with its popularity, Hanukkah is one of the less important holidays in the Jewish calendar, but nonetheless, it’s still a significant time of year, where it is associated with a number of customs and traditions like, candle lighting (menorah), blessings, games, and festive foods prepared at the table of every Jewish family.
Some traditions have their sources from the past, like the story of the extraordinary display of courage and valiant efforts shown by Judah Maccabees and his brothers, together with his band of farmers and merchants who rise up against the Syrian-Greek army and their ruthless and selfish ruler King Antiochus IV and wielded their weapons for the sake of freedom. The rededication of the vandalized temple, the Menorah and the miracle of the olive oil which is enough to last for a day but lasted for over a week (8days). There is also the story of the brave Judith or Yehudit, a daughter of Yochanan the High Priest. Judith seduced the Assyrian commander, Holifernes. Judith gave the general salty cheese to make him thirsty, and then she got him drunk by letting him drink plenty of wine. When the commander was a sleep, he draws his sword and beheaded him, thus saving her people from the conquering Assyrians.
From these stories, traditions and customs came to existence. In modern celebrations, it is customary for the Jewish community to cook food by means of baking or deep frying in oil, preferably olive oil. Special foods that are prepared are Loukoumades or lokmades made of deep fried dough soaked in sugar syrup or honey and cinnamon, and sometimes sprinkled with sesame to represent the cakes the Maccabees ate, along with Soofganiyot (Hanukkah doughnuts) and zelebi and pretzels and pancakes. The Jewish people also consume dairy products on the festival, as a symbol of tribute to Judith, who also played a lead role in the liberation of Jews.
Other best-known Hanukkah traditions include, lighting the Menorah, saying blessings and playing the driedel game for a pot full of gelt. Celebrating the holiday of Hanukkah, not only symbolizes joy and happiness, but emphasizes family togetherness; the triumph of both religious and personal freedom, the light of hope and that miracle could happen if we keep our faith in God.
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