This post brought to you by that irrepressible, ever-enlightening buddy o’ mine:
The Festival of Lights, better known as Hanukkah, begins this evening at sundown. The holiday celebrates the rebuilding and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it was destroyed by the Greco-Syrians, in an effort to force the Jews to pray to Greek gods and compromise their own religious beliefs. During the cleanup efforts at the temple, only one vat of oil—used for lighting the temple’s menorah—was found; this vat was expected to last for only one day. It actually lasted for eight, and that’s why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days! (That was the Miracle of Hanukkah.)
Non-Jews have the impression that Hanukkah is a very important holiday because it occurs right around Christmas. (Dates on the Gregorian calendar vary by the year; actually, Hanukkah occurs on the exact same day annually, on the Hebrew calendar!) However, in the grand scheme of things, it’s actually a very minor holiday in the Jewish religion. (Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is much more important!)
I remember, growing up, that my friends used to tell me how lucky I was that I got gifts for eight nights and they only got gifts on one day. I used to say, “Are you kidding me??? Did you SEE the pile of gifts you open on that one day?” The only real gift-giving tradition related to Hanukkah is actually giving small amounts of gelt, or money; the tradition of giving gifts each night was manufactured to compete with our Christmas-celebrating friends.
My favorite Hanukkah tradition? The grease. Err, I mean, the oil. Because of the Miracle of Hanukkah, we traditionally eat foods cooked in oil. That means that it’s not only acceptable but ENCOURAGED that we enjoy latkes (potato pancakes) fried in oil as well as doughnuts, a traditional dessert. Heck, this year, my family is even having fondue for dinner one night!
As far as music goes, you will never find a sustainable Satellite Radio station that only plays Hanukkah songs, because you’d probably only have an hour of different songs. When you add in all the cover versions by different artists, you might stretch broadcast time to about four hours, tops. In researching playlist.com for this post, I just plain couldn’t find some of the songs I was really hoping to post, but I found eight songs for you, one for each night of Hanukkah. Before you hit the playlist, I want to show you something that is more Christmas-related than Hanukkah, but it’s one of my favorite holiday songs. Those folks at “Saturday Night Live” are so clever! (AND right on: I mean, have you non-Jews ever paid attention to the ghosttown you leave for us on Christmas???)