So as many of my readers (all, like what, fifteen of you?!?!?) probably already know, Dave and I are an interfaith family. He is Jewish and I am Christian. And we are raising our kids in both faiths. So we get to celebrate it all! Tonight the Jewish festival of Chanukah started. Chanukah is also known as "The Festival of Lights" and it celebrates the miracle of oil. The Maccabees defeated Antiochus in 175BCE but there was only enough oil to light the flame in the temple for one night and then more would need to be made. It took a week to make the oil and miraculously the one day supply of oil burned for eight nights, until new oil was ready. So Chanukah commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple and the light burning for eight nights and the military victory of the Maccabees. Each night we light a successive candle on the menorah.
Chanukah means "re-dedication" in Hebrew. Also since the Hebrew alphabet is an Assyrian or Aramaic script there are many different ways to transliterate it so Chanukah can also be spelled "Hanukkah" as in our banner above or Chanuka or some other way. I try to be consistent on our blog but I many not always succeed.
We celebrated Chanukah tonight with our care group and subjected everyone to a little bit of interfaith whiplash. We started out by going to see the Living Nativity at a church in town. They bring in all sorts of animals -- chickens, donkeys, horses, goats, sheep, a camel -- and narrate the birth of Jesus with actors pantomiming the story. It is about half an hour long and there are four shows a night for three nights. We went to the early show tonight and were seated on benches, rather than the bleachers. I couldn't really see a lot and spent most of the time making sure Rachel could see something. Sam was mostly scared and sat on Dave's lap where he couldn't see at all. And he didn't want to pet the animals afterwards. So the only picture I have is of Willem, Rachel, Tessa and Sam after the play.
Then everyone from care group came to our house to celebrate Chanukah by lighting the menorah, eating latkes and playing dreidel. I also read the Chanukah "classic" by Lemony Snicket, "The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story." This is a great, humourous book which does a good job of contrasting Christmas and Chanukah.
Since Chanukah is all about the miracle of the oil there is a lot of food made with oil eaten, such as latkes -- potato pancakes fried in oil. You can also eat sufganiot, a jelly-filled donut.
In the background of the picture on the left you can see our menorah lit on the piano with two candles. You always light the shemash, or helper candle, and use it to light the other candles. Since tonight was the first night we only lit one other candle.
Rachel was screaming for a latke but wasn't so sure about it once she actually had it. Dave commented that he didn't like them when he was little either, so maybe she'll learn to like them. (She also woke up at 6:30 this morning and only napped for about half an hour in the car so she was super-tired tonight.)
Another part of Chanukah is playing dreidel. The dreidel is a toy which you spin and has four Hebrew letters on it, nun, gimel, hay and shin. These are the first letters in each word in the Hebrew phrase for "A great miracle happened there" and refers to the miracle of the oil and/or the victory of the Maccabees. In Israel the letter pei replaces the letter shin as the phrase stands for "A great miracle happened here." Each player starts with playing pieces (we used mini chocolates) and puts two in the middle, or the pot. You spin the dreidel and then, depending on which letter it lands on, you get to, or have to, do something. With nun you do nothing, with gimel you get the whole pot, with hay you get half the pot and with shin you put one piece in the pot. The kids played for an hour tonight, laughing and having a lot of fun! Sam also ate more than his fair share of chocolate and kept needing to replenish his playing pieces! Ha ha ha!
Then everyone went home and Dave was left with all the dishes! Actually, we did them together and wished for a dishwasher, but only when we host fourteen people for a First Night of Chanukah Party!