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Hanukkah: A Festival of Lights Celebrates a Miracle

Eight candles, lit one day at a time for Hanukkah, celebrates a victorious battle and unbroken faith.

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a successful battle won by Judah Maccabee against the Greek and Syrian armies around 165 B.C.

During the time of rededication, miraculously, a single day's supply of oil burned for eight days. Today the Hanukkah menorah has nine branches and commemorates that event as each of the eight candles are lit every day of the holiday and the ninth candle, called the shamash is used to light each of them.

Already a holiday that brought Jewish families together for prayer, music, singing, games, gift-giving and traditional foods, Hanukkah–since the winter holiday usually falls near Christmas–a Stanford University survey found that American Jews observe it more adamently than in Israel to preserve the traditions and significance of Hanukkah.

Spinning the dreidel and eating fried foods like latkes, or potato pancakes, and jelly-filled donuts are traditional family and community activities in addition to lighting the menorah. has become more commonplace too.

The dreidel, a top, has four sides with Hebrew letters that together mean, "a great miracle happened there."

Locally, several synagogues, temples and organizations will host Hanukkah events.

  • The Light it Up young adults party at the Hillel at Stanford hopes to gather hundreds of Bay Area young adults on Saturday, Dec. 17 for the lighting of the menorah, spinning the dreidel, drinking, eating and dancing. First 150 guests through the door receive complementary OFJCC gym guest passes! Cash bar. Price $10.
  • Palo Alto's Jewish Study Network invites the community to a Hanukkah Party that includes a class on Hanukkah and afterward with jelly donuts, live music and Chinese Food. On Dec. 24 starting at 8 p.m. Adults $10, children under 10, $8.

Happy Hanukkah!

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