Students explain Hanukkah traditions

By Chloe Sommer, Staff–

Christmas and Winter Solstice are just around the corner, but for some Davis High students, the holidays are already here. Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, began Tuesday night, Dec. 16, and ends Dec. 24.

The holiday celebrates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem that occurred in 165 B.C.E., a victory for the Jewish people in their revolt against the Seleucid Empire. According to the Talmud (an extended text of Jewish history and tradition written after the Torah), an oil lamp with enough oil for one night burned for eight nights. This was a miracle for the Jews.

“A common misconception about Hanukkah is that kids get a lot of presents and it’s all about presents. What Hanukkah is really about is celebrating how long the oil lasted in the old temple in Jerusalem,” junior Josh Milenbach said. Milenbach celebrates the holiday with his family every year.

The celebration lasts eight nights and days to commemorate the event. Jews observe the traditions of the oil lamp miracle by lighting candles and eating foods fried in oil, like latkes and doughnuts.

Candles are burned in a specific way, on a nine-branch candelabrum known as a menorah or hanukiah. Eight branches of the stand represent each night, and one more candle is lit each night progressively until they are all lit on the eighth night. The ninth branch of the menorah is there for practical use, to light the other candles.

“I enjoy lighting the menorah and having dinner with my whole family. On the first night of Hanukkah, my grandparents come over and we play dreidel and eat gelt and latkes,” sophomore Meghan Bobrowsky said.

Like Christmas, Hanukkah is about commemorating religious tradition, but is also about visiting family and coming together to celebrate.

“My personal favorite times of Hanukkah are just being in a family environent. Having everyone you love in one place is truly a blessing,” Milenbach said.

Whether it’s exchanging presents, eating gelt (chocolate), or playing dreidel, Hanukkah generally means good times for all who celebrate it.

“[I love] going to my cousin’s house on the last night and having a big party with all our family because I don’t get to see them very often. It’s nice to catch up and enjoy the holiday spirit,” Bobrowsky said.

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