Hanukkah, The Festival of Lights


BUCKHANNON— While many celebrate the Christmas season, it is important to explore other holiday celebrations, and educate yourself on the varieties of religions and beliefs. The winter months also bring a beautiful “Festival of Lights,” commonly known as Hanukkah.

Many years ago, Judea was ruled by Alexander the Great. The people coexisted and lived in harmony with one another. However, following the death of Alexander the Great, King Antiochus took his place. He was known to be a very evil king who believed everyone should behave and believe the same ways that he did. He destroyed the Jewish people’s temples and ran them out of their homes and livelihoods.

A brave Jewish man, Mattathias, and his five sons created a small but mighty army known as the Maccabees, which translates to “the hammer.” Though they were made up of few and did not have many weapons, they fought very hard against King Antiochus—and they won! A three-year war in 165 BCE ended and the King and his people were chased out of their villages. When the Maccabee army returned to clean and fix their temples, they realized the King’s army had extinguished their “eternal light,” known as their Ner Tamid. There was only a small amount of olive oil remaining—enough to burn the light for one day. Although they had a small amount of oil, a miracle occurred when the flame was lit. The Ner Tamid burned for eight days! This filled the Jewish people with hope. Hanukkah, meaning “dedication,” is a celebration of the lights, and serves as a remembrance to the Maccabee army that restored the faith of the Jewish people when the light of the Ner Tamid burned for eight days, showing the people that G-d was on their side.

This year, Hanukkah began at sundown on December 10 and lasts through December 18. The holiday is celebrated by the lighting of candles on the menorah. The menorah holds eight candles for each day the Ner Tamid burned long ago, and one candle in the center (shammus) that kindles the light for the rest. On the first night, the center candle is ignited, as well as the first candle. Each night, an additional candle is lit. Candles are lit from right to left, just as the Hebrew language is written and read. On the final night, all candles are illuminated for the celebration of Hanukkah.

Buckhannon resident Daya Wright has organized a public “lighting of the menorah” ceremony during years past, but due to COVID-19, she was unable to host it this year. However, the menorah is still on display at Jawbone Park until Hanukkah ends, where Wright comes daily to light its candles.

This holiday is a beautiful representation of faith, strength and determination. No matter what you are celebrating this season, or any season—do it with love and compassion. Happy Hanukkah!

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