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Traditions of Hanukkah

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by Tom Hulse and Scott Steinberg

As the great Adam Sandler once said, “Hanukkah is the festival of lights. Instead of one day of presents, we get eight crazy nights.” But why light the menorah for eight days a year? What’s the purpose of spinning dreidels, or reciting blessings over the menorah, or eating latkes each December?

Hanukkah, which can be spelled with an “H” or a “C”, is the celebration of the victory of a Jewish army called “The Maccabees” over the Syrians, who burned down the Jewish temple and enforced Greek culture over the Jewish people. After winning the war, the Maccabees tried to rebuild their fallen temple but found there was only enough oil to light the menorah for one night. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight nights, and the eight-day tradition of Hanukkah was born.

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