Chanuka2012MiriamIt is said that all Jewish festivals can be described in the same way:

  • They tried to get rid of us.
  • We survived.
  • Let’s eat.

Chanuka is one of those. It’s not the most important festival, but it’s fairly well known because it comes at about the same time as Christmas.

SvivonimI looked for a short explanation of Chanuka, and found one on Lisa’s beautiful blog (Blogger wouldn’t link to the post itself):

Chanukah commemorates two miracles which occurred on behalf of the people of Israel. The first miracle was the military victory of a handful of Jewish warriors against the mighty armed forces of the Syrian-Greek army. The second miracle was that while going through the ruins of the destroyed holy temple only sufficient oil to light the menorah for one day was found, yet the oil miraculously burned for eight continuous days. That is why Chanukah lasts eight nights.

SvivonimThere are three main traditions for Chanuka:

  • To light candles – one, two… up to eight on each night of the festival and sing Maoz Tzur.
  • To play with a sevivon/dreidel/spinning top.
  • To eat foodstuffs fried in oil.

The sevivon has four letters on it. One of the letters is different in Israel from sevivonim found in the rest of the world. There, the letters stand for (A) Great Miracle Happened There. Here, they stand for (A) Great Miracle Happened Here.

SvivonimThe candelabra (I see the correct word is: candelabrum) used to light the candles is called a chanukiya. In other countries it is often called a menorah. This is incorrect. The menorah has six branches and was used in the Temple. The chanukiya has eight branches (or nine). The extra one is for the shamash, the candle used to light all the others.

SvivonimFood. We Ashkenazi Jews, who migrated via Europe, eat levivot (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (doughnuts). Sephardi Jews, who migrated via Arab lands, and some via Spain and Portugal, eat other fried foods. Bimuelo, ma’akouda and mofleta are some of the names I found.

SvivonimIn London, where I grew up, I attended a Jewish primary school and a “secular” secondary school. In those days, secular secondary schools celebrated Christmas and it was impossible to opt out altogether.

I loved the tunes of the Christmas carols, but didn’t feel comfortable with all the words. When I had to sing one, solo, that fact caused me to sing it quietly, and the teacher probably thought I was nervous or didn’t have a good singing voice. I was never chosen to be in the choir.

In an art lesson in the first year, we were told to draw something for Christmas. There was an option for drawing Chanuka objects, but it wasn’t encouraged and I, of course, was always trying not to stand out. However, I had no idea what one drew for Christmas. So I looked over someone’s shoulder and tried to copy her work.

We gave each other presents and cards. That was all right, although I was always aware that it wasn’t really my festival.

My children don’t know about any of these feelings, and I’m glad of that. They missed out on the Christmas carols, but they got Chanuka songs instead.

SvivonimHappy holidays!

SvivonimTo see all the other Crooked Cat stories, poems, giveaways and more during the six-week event, join our Facebook group.

Neither Here Nor There, my romance with a difference, is available from Amazon, Crooked Cat Books, Smashwords and The Book Depository.

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