Happy Hanukkah

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With all my Christmas excitement, I thought it would be nice to include a Hanukkah post. I grew up in a town that had a large Jewish population, so I often think of the Jewish holidays. Since I am scheduled to do my Christmas in Kenya post for the Christmas Around the World series Monday, I will have two Multicultural Monday posts, but this one will be on Sunday.
Sharing Saturday Feature--from Boy Mama Teacher Mama: Clothespin Menorah

A little history about Hanukkah. I'll be honest, I did not know the story behind Hanukkah though I am sure I must have heard it at some point. I took some books out of the library to help me with it.

A World of Holidays: Hanukkah by Anne Clark, David Rose, and Gill Rose gives much information on the holiday historically as well as currently. So the story is a long time ago (more than 2000 years ago), a Syrian ruler of Israel, King Antiochus, demanded that everyone in his land believe in the Greek gods instead of the one Jewish God. He actually made it a crime to teach about one God and the punishment was death. He also sent his soldiers into the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem on their horses and put a statue of Zeus in there. He also ordered the soldiers to make pig sacrifices to Zeus in the temple. These acts made the Temple unholy for the Jewish people. Well a priest named Mattathias and his sons refused to give up their own beliefs. They fled to the hills and took the small number of Jews with them to remain loyal to their religion and to fight the Syrians. After Mattathias died, his son, Judah, led the Jews. Even though the Jews were outnumbered they continued to win battles and eventually defeated Antiochus and his men. They returned to their homes in Jerusalem and began to cleanse the temple so they could rededicate it to God. While cleaning it they found a jar of oil that had been used to keep the menorah lit. Antiochus had his men distinguish the flame since the light of the candles represented God's presence to the Jews. This jar of oil was enough to keep the candles lit for a day, but it would take much longer to get more oil. However they lit the candle using the oil (which was made from olives) and the miracle occurred--the lamp stayed lit for eight days!

This is why Hanukkah lasts for eight days and is often called the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah means "rededication". The festival starts on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the Jewish calendar. The candles are lit at sunset at each night of the eight nights. (The first night this year is/was Saturday the 8th.) The first candle is placed on the right side of the hanukiah (which many people refer to as the menorah), and each night after that a new candle is added to the left. An extra candle, the shamash or servant candle is used to light the other candles and then placed in the center of the hanukiah. Forty four candles are need in all to celebrate. The candles are lit left to right so the newest one is lit first.

Latkes or potato pancakes and doughnuts are traditional foods for Hanukkah. The reason being the oil required to cook them. An easy way to introduce children to Hanukkah would be to make some latkes. There are recipes all over the web as well in many books. I have not made them since I was young so I will not attempt to share one with you.

Other ideas for introducing Hanukkah to children:
 Hanukkah by Miriam Chaikin tells the story of Hanukkah in great detail and explains how to celebrate it.

It's Hanukkah! by Jeanne Modesitt tells how a mouse family celebrates the holiday. This is a great book for young children to understand how families actually celebrate. At the end of the book there is the history of Hanukkah, how to light the menorah including blessings, how to play dreidel, as well as a recipe for latkes and the words and music to O Hanukkah words by A. Evronin.