Honoring and Remembering Hanukkah, The Festival of Lights

By Kim Williams, Manager of Transportation & Care Manager Assistant
and Paul Jayson, Mobility Manager

Happy Holidays from all of us at Geriatric Care Management and The Silver Runner Transportation and Companionship! For this Holiday Season, we thought we’d explore the tradition of Hanukkah both broadly and personally in honor of our Jewish friends, clients, and colleagues.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day holiday that celebrates the Jewish reclamation of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It also pays tribute to the miracle that occurred when the Temple was reclaimed – the one-day supply of candle oil in the Temple that burned for eight days.

According to chabad.org, “More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Syrian-Greeks, who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews (known as the Maccabees) defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, (and) reclaimed the Holy Temple.

When (the Jews) sought to light the Temple’s menorah (candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Hanukkah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eight night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.” (Source: http://www.chabad.org/holidays/chanukah/article_cdo/aid/102911/jewish/What-Is-Hanukkah.htm)

Hanukkah customs include eating foods fried in oil such as potato pancakes, known as latkes, and doughnuts, or sufganiot. Gifts are given to children on each night and children will often play with a dreidel, a spinning top on which is inscribed in Hebrew, “a great miracle happened there.”

These authors both have personal memories related to Hanukkah. Kim Williams recounts, “Growing up with a Christian father and Jewish mother, I was blessed to experience both holidays and remember lighting the menorah candles nightly during Hanukkah. I remember the ritual of first lighting the candle in the center of the menorah, which served the practical purpose of lighting the other candles. While candles were lit, all in attendance recited traditional prayers in Hebrew. Then, the candles were left to burn entirely and were not blown out. I remember carefully watching the candles, hoping for my own Hanukkah miracle – for the candles to stay continually lit! That never occurred, but still, there was a sense of magic in the air.”

Paul Jayson recalls, “Hanukkah to me is a memory of fun and joy, of the mystery of miracles and of the closeness of family. I remember the excitement and anticipation as Hanukkah was approaching – looking to make sure we all knew where the menorah was, making sure we had the right amount of candles, and all the other holiday preparations involved. I remember the fun, not the chore, of scraping the wax drippings off the menorah as the holiday ran its course.

When I was 8 years old, I was old enough to be the one to light the Shamus (the attendant), the main candle. The Shamus is then used to light the additional candles as the evenings of Hanukkah progress. Lighting that candle was my honor, and I remember the pride I felt in reaching that milestone.

My family would recite the prayers of the kindling of the Hanukkah lights and then begin singing the joyous songs of the holiday. We would also be given Hanukkah gelt (Hebrew for money). Gelt usually came in the form of chocolate candy discs wrapped in gold foil and kept in a loosely meshed sachet with a drawstring. The chocolate gelt symbolized coins and commemorated when the Greeks bade the Jews to mint their own currency upon their new won freedom. My parents would also give us silver half dollar and dollar coins on some nights; this was the late 1950’s and early 60’s when those were very special gifts for children to receive!  We also got dreidels, which are small wooden or metal spinning tops. They are four-sided with a different letter on each side. Each letter relates to a gambling game that we played with the gelt. The letters meant: take the pot, match the pot, half the pot, and do nothing. Yes, gambling at a young age! Me being the youngest of all the cousins, I’m sure I was cheated!

The last night of Hanukkah was bittersweet; there was some sadness to that final cleaning and putting away of the menorah in its resting place until the next year. Yes many memories indeed.”

Whatever your Holiday tradition, we at Geriatric Care Management and The Silver Runner wish you and yours all the best and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

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