December-A festival of lights

Alice Pratt, Copy Editor

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Even before December begins, people all over the nation are putting up Christmas lights and inflatable Santas, planning the gifts they are going to buy for loved ones, and singing Christmas songs. This time of year, most people are getting into the spirit of Christmas, though that is not the only festival of lights that takes place in December.

Many people are familiar with Jewish holiday of Hanukkah—sometimes called the Festival of Lights—but most of the recognition that the holiday receives is a result of its proximity to Christmas. Just like Christmas, Hanukkah has its own traditions. People who celebrate Hanukkah often sing songs and pray, as well as light the menorah and play dreidel, and the meaning of the holiday is actually centered around all of these traditions.

Sophomore Shaul Leket-Mor, who comes from a Jewish Israeli family, explained that “After the Greeks’ conquest in Judea, the Greeks tried to convert the Jews. The Greeks trashed the Temple, and stole the oil. The Jews wanted to remove all of the Greek gods, which were put in by the Greeks, but they only had a little oil. Amazingly, the oil lasted eight days. Which is why Hanukkah lasts eight days.”

And why there are eight candles on the menorah, plus the Shamash, which is used to light the other candles.

As for the dreidel, which is a top that children spin and sometimes use to play a game, the Hebrew letters on each of the four sides of the dreidel are actually an acronym for what translates to “a great miracle happened there.” The great miracle of Hanukkah refers to the oil that provided light for eight days, even though it only seemed like enough for one.

“[On Hanukkah], we light the candles, sing Hanukkah songs (I have the notes for many Jewish songs for the piano, so I play along with the piano a lot), play dreidel, and eat sufganiot,” Leket-Mor said.

Sufganiot (the plural of sufganiyah) are an Israeli dessert similar to donuts.

Foods associated with Hanukkah which are more common in the United States include latkes, which are potato pancakes often eaten with applesauce or sour cream, and chocolate gelt, which are chocolate gold coins.

Many religious and secular Jews alike partake in the foods and traditions of the holiday.

“Our family isn’t actually very religious, so we don’t have very many traditions. We light candles, do the blessings, and give gifts,” said Corona del Sol senior Laura Belmont.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, a little bit of both, or simply the vacation from school and finals, December may be a time to appreciate the family and friends in your life, the slightly chilly Arizona winter, and the pretty glow of fire or ferry light.

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December-A festival of lights