I am a senior writer for Weekend Notes, a copywriter, editor, published poet and former editor of poetry magazine Fruit Salad. I have also authored children's fiction and inspirational pieces.
Remembering a miracle
Chanukah Menorah for $69,https://www.judaicawebstore.com/yair-emanuel-copper-pomegranate-hanukkah-menorah.
Chanukah or Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, is celebrated every year from 24th of Kislev to 2nd of Tevet on the Jewish calendar. The Story of Chanukah begins hundreds of years ago during the reign of Antiochus IV 'Epiphanes'. Ruling over Judea after the death of Alexander the Great, Antiochus tried to force the Jews to accept Greek culture. He defiled the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar and erected a statue of Zeus in the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant belonged. Eventually, the Jews revolted, driving out the Greeks in 165BC. Jerusalem and the temple were back under their control.
Within the temple was a solid gold 'Menora', a huge seven-branched lampstand, meant to be kept lit at all times. Following the victory, the Menora had to be re-lit using special oil, however, the supply of oil was down to one day's burning time. The recipe for the oil consists of four litres of olive oil, 5.75k each of myrrh and cassia and 2.875k each of cinnamon and calamus. Sometimes called 'illuminating oil', it would take eight days to create a new batch. It was decided that the Menora should be lit anyway and they began to make the fresh oil. Miraculously, the one day's worth of oil burnt for eight days and thus began the Feast of Dedication to celebrate the miracle.
Create your own arty Chanukah-candle decoration.
Today, Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated in the home by lighting candles on a nine-branched Menora to commemorate the eight days. The ninth candle is known as the servant candle as it is used to light the others. Each night one extra candle is lit as the festival continues for eight days. The feast also celebrates the victory over the Greeks.
You can create your own 'Menora' in any fashion you like; some tea light candles will do, placed on an attractive tray or artwork for example. After lighting the candles you may meditate on times past when you believe that God came through for you. Since Chanukah begins only five days after Thanksgiving this year, it would be appropriate to give thanks for his help. You may want to focus on the candles during a time of prayer. Even if you aren't a person of faith, the candles and a little time out is a fun and relaxing activity. Encourage the children to 'count their blessings,' helping to replace negative thoughts.
On the evening of the 24th of Kislev the first candle is lit by the servant candle. This year the first evening is 28 November and the festival ends on 6 December.
The Menora in the temple in Jerusalem had seven branches like this model.
Special foods are prepared using oil, such as fried potato pancakes (latkes) with sour cream or applesauce; and donuts. Traditional foods include latkes, roast chicken, beef brisket, kugel, rugelach and matzo ball soup.
The Jews play a gambling game that was played in Germany during WWII to hide the celebration of Chanukah from the Nazis. It's a game of dice called Dreidel, so-called because a Dreidel top is used as a dice. A Dreidel top can be made from paper and spun to indicate whether you put into or take out of the pot, which usually consists of chocolate or coins. The top is decorated with Hebrew letters (N, G, H and P) which indicate which action to take.
Everyone puts one coin or chocolate into the pot. Every time you spin the top you put one coin in. 'N' means you get nothing. 'G' means you take the whole pot. 'H' says you take half of the pot. 'P' tells you to put one or two into the pot. When one player has the whole pot the game ends.
Making your own Dreidel top is easy.
A traditional Mezuza can be a lovely and inexpensive gift for Chanukah.
Chanukah can also be celebrated by exchanging gifts. A small, inexpensive gift is usually given. If you want to get into Judaica, there are some fabulously beautiful items available such as artworks displaying the unique Jewish artistic style. A tiny 'mezuzah' makes a wonderful gift for the spiritually-minded, as they are to contain portions of scriptural blessings and look beautiful on a wall or doorframe. A Dreidel dice is another lovely gift. Shop at Judaica Webstore for gift ideas.
If you wanted to go all-out, you might even buy your own nine-branched menorah. With Chanukah ending in December, it's a great way to get into the spirit of Christmas.