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Hanukkah culminates Saturday
Dec 14, 2012 4:00 pm
Menorahs everywhere will blaze fully lit on Saturday night.
Saturday marks the eighth day of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.
Gayle Salaun, of Lebanon, recalls celebrating Hanukkah as a child in New York.
“We used to live upstairs from my grandparents, and we would all celebrate it as a family,” said Salaun.
The eight-day festival commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucids in Jerusalem more than 21 centuries ago, according to chabad.org.
“There was a group of Jews, and they had enough oil to light the lights [of the menorah] for one day,” said Salaun. “But, in fact, it was God’s blessing that they had enough oil to light it for eight days.”
In remembrance, on the eve of the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, Jewish people everywhere light the first flame on the menorah. The next night, the second flame is lit. The process continues each subsequent night until the eighth night, when all flames are lit.
The lighting of the menorah is only part of the celebration, though, according to Salaun.
“There’s special food that you cook,” said Salaun. “One of the foods is potato pancakes; they’re called latkes.”
Foods, such as latkes, that are traditionally associated with Hanukkah are those that are fried in oil, honoring the miracle of the oil, according to chabad.org.
“The kids play with little toys – they’re called dreidels,” said Salaun. “Each of the dreidels has four sides, and they all have a Hebrew letter on them.”
The letters, nun, gimmel, hei and shin, form an acronym for the phrase Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, which translates to “a great miracle happened there,” according to chabad.org.
While gifts are traditionally part of Hanukkah, those gifts are secondary to the ritual and history of the holiday.
“In Hanukkah, you get one small gift every day, but it’s more religion-based,” said Salaun. “I don’t think it’s quite as commercial as Christmas has turned out to be.”