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Celebrating Chanukah

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Centuries ago, following the defeat of Greek ruler, King Antiochius, a Jewish priest named Judas Maccabbee reclaimed and rededicated the Second Temple of the Jewish people. Putting an end to the tyranny of the King was a grand feat. To purify the Temple during rededication, a single lamp was lit in the Temple, although there was only enough consecrated oil to keep the lamp lit for one night. Amazingly, a miracle occurred, and the flame fueled with only one night’s worth of oil continued burning for eight days. From this event, the celebration of Chanukah was born.

Today, people of the Jewish faith celebrate Chanukah during the mid-winter season, occurring anywhere from late November to late December. Chanukah is a joyous celebration, and over the eight day period of the event many get-togethers and parties are held to share the holiday with friends and families.

Celebrating Chanukah through parties and fun events is particularly important for children of the Jewish faith. Young children especially may have difficulty grasping the meaning behind the holiday, since history has little appeal or understanding to their immature minds. Incorporating meaningful yet fun games and activities into the holiday helps children learn the meaning of Chanukah through fun and laughter.

Planning a Chanukah party for children will involve games, activities, decorations and food. Years ago, children were asked questions regarding the meaning and history of Chanukah and they were rewarded with “gelt”, or money, when a correct answer was given. This practice continues in quizzical games and puzzles, with small gifts or chocolate coins used as rewards.jewish menorah

A popular traditional game is spinning the dreidel, a spinning top with four sides on which symbols are displayed. The game is basically a betting game, using pennies or candies. The dreidel has a long history, with roots in the time period of the original Chanukah.

Decorations for a Chanukah party can be simple, and can be homemade or purchased at a party supply store. Paper dreidels suspended from crepe banners can be festive dressing for walls and ceilings, and when filled with small candies, used for party favors as well. Tables in the party room should feature menorahs. Banners and door covers can be fashioned with simple white paper table covering; decorated with pictures of dreidels, menorahs and Stars of David. Balloons in bright blue and snow white colors are popular decorations, and can be filled with helium to provide vertical decorations, anchored with sand filled dreidels.

Food, as with any holiday, is the most memorable feature of the Chanukah celebration. Because of the importance placed on the oil burning at the Temple, fried foods are a traditional feature for Chanukah. Potato latkes, a fried potato pancake that is served with sour cream and applesauce are a delicious and must-have addition to Chanukah party fare. The rest of the menu can be as simple as sandwiches and salad, or as elaborate as brisket or lamb, with vegetable side dishes. Dessert must feature jelly or fried doughnuts, and can also include cookies and cakes.

A recent tradition is to include dairy items in a Chanukah meal. This tradition is carried out to remember a young maiden named Judith, who saved her village by beheading a tyrannical governor terrorizing the small community. Judith took treats of cheese and wine to the governor who became drunk, giving Judith the opportunity to slay him. The next day, the Jews attacked the troops battling the village. When they ran to their governor and found his headless corpse, they fled the area in fear.

Celebrating Chanukah carries on a tradition that has endured through the centuries, and strengthens Jewish faith and knowledge. Celebrating with a party is a fun filled way to gather with friends and family in memory of a miraculous occasion in Jewish history.

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