Hanukkah for the Jewishly Challenged

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Non-Jews may be surprised to learn that December 24, 2016 is the first day of Hanukkah. Those of us of the Hebrew persuasion light the first candle on this night.

While Hanukkah in recent years has become something of a “Jewish Christmas,” with blue and white decorations for the home, parents giving their kids lots of present and families getting together for holiday dinners, Hanukkah has no correlation at all to Christmas.

Yes, they’re both festivals of light during the season of long nights.

Yes, Jewish parents have made more of what is really a minor Jewish holiday in order to compensate for Santa’s sleigh doing a flyby past Jewish homes instead of a drop off.

Hanukkah, however, celebrates the resistance of Jewish warriors, the Maccabees, during the Syrian-Greek occupation of Jerusalem in 167 BC and the banning of the religion. After the Maccabees retook the holy Jewish Temple, they wanted to burn oil for eight days to purify the space. But, the story goes, there was only enough oil to burn for one day and, yet, it burned for eight. That miracle and the heroism of the Maccabees is celebrated at Hanukkah by lighting Hanukkah candles for eight nights in a special eight-branched menorah.

As for the latkes and the fried donuts, well, they’re all about using oil, too.

Wishing Jewish friends “A Happy Hanukkah” is a nice thing to do, but few Jews will be offended if, come Christmas in a few week’s time, you wish them a Merry Christmas, too.