This year Hanukkah falls from November 28 through December 6
ATASCADERO — Hanukkah showed up early this year! The Jewish Festival of Lights started on the night of Nov. 28 and will end at sundown on Dec. 6. The eight-night celebration of Jewish liberation can fall anywhere between late November and late December and changes dates every year on the Gregorian calendar. However, on the Jewish calendar, it always falls on the 25 of Kislev.
“Whether we celebrate in December, November or [like one memorable occasion in my own family, in March], the celebration itself feels like coming home,” said the Jewish romance author of Miracles and Menorahs, Stacey Agdern.
Not to be confused as Jewish Christmas, the eight nights of Hanukkah actually commemorates when a small band of Jews [lead by Judah the Maccabee] took back the Holy Land from the hands of the Seleucid Empire [Syrian-Greeks] and rededicated the Holy Temple to God in 164 BCE.
“One of my favorite things about Hanukkah is the theme of light. Not only do Jews use a Shamash, or helper candle, to light all the other candles on their menorahs, but Jews are also commanded to publicize the miracle, placing their menorahs in windows or outside their homes. In observant Jewish communities, you will see hundreds of menorahs lining the street. For me, the sight of all those menorahs, illuminating what would otherwise be a dark street, is a powerful reminder that we each have a sacred responsibility to be a light in this world,” said Jean Meltzer, author of the Hanukkah rom-com, The Matzah Ball.
Only one night’s worth of oil was found when The Maccabees went to light the Menorah in the Temple, but miraculously, it lasted eight nights while new oil was prepared for the candelabrum. Now, we celebrate our freedom from cultural assimilation by lighting eight candles over eight nights in our own menorahs.
“As an adult, I’ve been cultivating my own traditions with my loved ones and family. Sometimes that looks like baking chocolate rugelach, lighting candles each night and reciting the prayers, or heading to our local donut shop for some sufganiyot (fried donuts, typically with a jelly filling). Each year is different, and this year is no exception but every year that Hanukkah knocks on our doors is a time to be reflective and thankful for those that bring light when there is darkness,” said bookstagramer (blogger), Rae Lipkin.
The word Hanukkah means dedication in Hebrew, and every year, we Jews are dedicated to eating traditional foods cooked in oil. The most famous of all these dishes are called latkes, which are the most delicious potato pancakes you’ve ever tasted. The only thing you need to figure out is: sour cream or apple sauce as a topping?
“My family is not the most religious family, so it’s funny that Hanukkah was the most important holiday for me growing up. I don’t remember ever saying a full prayer as we lit the candles, but I do remember the hours spent with my cousins making and draining potatoes for latkes and complaining about oil burns on our arms,” said bookstagrammer Kate H.
“I remember going to family friend’s homes and playing dreidel but never remembering what each letter meant, so I never remembered if I got the half pot or full pot [of Hanukkah gelt/chocolate coins] because I didn’t speak any Hebrew. But then stealing the whole pot anyway because I was the youngest and could get away with taking [all] the chocolate,” she continues.
The game of Dreidel, which is played with a 4-sided-top of the same name, is a game that brings Jewish families together. Each side of the Dreidel features a Hebrew letter. The letters Nun, Gimmel, Hei, and Shin are an acronym for “a great miracle happened there!”
“Hanukkah has always been one of my favorite Jewish holidays. Even though it’s a more minor [religious] holiday for us, it has some of my favorite traditions! And because of the timing of the holiday, it is usually a perfect time to get together with family and friends. I personally love making latkes with my family at our annual Hanukkah party and going around the circle, opening our presents, and handing out gelt. I love how joyous and full of life I feel during Hanukkah!” said Amanda Spivack, who co-runs the Jewish book club, Matzah Book Soup.
So light your menorah, cook those latkes, and divvy up the gelt!