This year Hanukkah starts today Tuesday, December 12th at sunset and ends on Wednesday, December 20th.
To me the most beautiful part about the holiday season is being able to learn about others beliefs and traditions. I find it so interesting to learn of others cultures, rituals and how they celebrate the holidays, especially at Christmas time. It is what makes the world such an interesting place to be in. Take Hanukkah for instance, it is one of those celebrations that can seem very complicated, yet interesting at the same time, due to all the interesting parts and meanings to the (8) nights of celebratory event.
I learned about the ritual of lighting the candles, the festival of lights. On the first night only two candles are placed in the menorah (also known as the hanukkiah), the shammash or “helper” candle which has its own designated spot, usually in the center, and another candle. Each night another candle is added so that on the eighth and final night of Hanukkah, there are nine candles (the shammash plus eight others) are all lit. There are three blessings that accompany the candle lighting as well. The candles are placed in the menorah from right to left (just as Hebrew is written from right to left), but are lit from left to right. The shammash candle is always the first one lit, and is used to light the others, starting with the one furthest to the left. Lighting the candles starting from the left represents the newest night first.
Although Hanukkah is all about the festival of lights, it is also about Family, Freedom, games of Dreidels, Potato Latkes, The Eight Nights, Joy, Peace, Doughnuts, Gifts, Miracles and Oil. The point is it’s a time to celebrate and enjoy life and all its blessings.