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Hanukkah begins tonight

Nathan Turoff, Student Government Reporter

Today marks the first day of the Jewish Festival of Hanukkah. Hanukkah is often viewed as the Jewish equivalent to Christmas, as they occur near the same time and involve a similar gift exchange. However, they are very different holidays.

Christmas, if Christmas Eve is not counted, is a single day holiday on the twenty-fifth of December celebrating the Birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. It is often seen as the most important Christian holiday after Holy Week, which includes Easter and Good Friday. While the customs and traditions associated with Christmas can vary with nation, culture, and religious affiliation, the day itself is what never changes. Christmas is arguably the most celebrated holiday in the world. 

Hanukkah is arguably the most iconic Jewish holiday in popular culture. However, the holiday itself is actually very religiously minor for the Jewish people. Unlike Christmas, Hanukkah is celebrated over the course of eight days and nights. It is also fluid in terms of date, because the Hebrew Calendar is different from the modern calendar we use today. It can fall later than Christmas and as early as November. 

Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. According to the Talmud, after the reclaiming of the temple, the temple’s menorah was to be lit all night, every night. However, only one days worth of oil was found. The oil ended up burning for eight days, just enough time for them to obtain more oil. This was viewed as a miracle, and an eight-day festival was held, which would become Hanukkah.

The centerpiece of the holiday is the nine stick candelabra called a menorah. The ninth and middlemost candle is elevated above the rest, and is used to light an additional candle every night until the festival is over. Other traditions during the holiday include playing with dreidels, eating oily foods and eating dairy.

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