Categories
Israel

Chanuka Meanderings

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.

By Miriam Drori

Author, editor, attempter of this thing called life.

14 replies on “Chanuka Meanderings”

And a happy holiday to you, too, Miriam. What has impressed me about festivals from all over the world is the way we all celebrate by joining together, and with food and music. We might tell different stories to underpin our festivities, but we have more in common than at first appears.

I’m with the Quakers here – every and any day is sacred and I’ll happily join in with anyone celebrating. Thanks for this, Miriam, lovely to deepen my knowledge of my father’s tradition. Bright blessings to all, whatever you are celebrating.

Isn’t it interesting how music, and especially songs, cross cultural divides? When I was young I loved to sing, and my parents had both been involved in folk groups. I don’t know if it was that, or the very liberal neo-Catholic household I grew up in, but I was as likely to sing Hava Nagila or one of Pete Seeger’s Jewish-inspired songs (or for that matter Negro spirituals or other ethnic folk songs) as any of my familiar Christian favourites. As an adult I gained a better understanding of what drives division, but I still like to think that music has a role to play in enhancing relationships and promoting understanding.

During my very recent to visit to India, we visited several tribal villages. In some of them the villagers put on a concert with singing and dancing for us, and then invited us to join in. We also performed our own dances and some of them joined in. We didn’t have a common language, and this brought us together.

I didn’t know that about the amount of candles on the Menorah and the chanukiya. It’s always good to learn new things!

All spamless comments are welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s