In the winter months, there are many celebrations by different cultures and religions which seek to drive out the darkness, among them the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah (Chanukah). Hanukkah normally comes near Christmas, but this year it is unusually early and will be celebrated beginning Wednesday, November 27 (the day before Thanksgiving) and end on Thursday, December 5, 2013. The dates of these festivities can vary due to the observance of different calendars. In the Jewish lunar Calendar, Hanukkah is a “floating” event, whereas Thanksgiving and Christmas are not (at least in modern times). Hanukkah, which means “dedication,” commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It is a celebration of victory in the face of adversity. The holiday is also called “The Festival of Lights.” The Menorah, a nine-branched candelabra, is displayed in homes with a new candle being lit on each night during the eight day observance. Originally, when the Jews first tried to light the Menorah, they found only enough oil for one night. Miraculously, the oil burned for 8 nights. The 9th and central candle is the Shamash which is used to light the other candles and is the first candle to be lit. Blessings are said over the candle lighting on each night.
Hanukkah is a festive occasion accompanied by delicious food including latkes (potato pancakes), brisket, challah and doughnuts In the photograph above, children play the traditional dreidel game with chocolate coins and a spinning top.