Hannukah and how it is celebrated

Low key Image of jewish holiday Hanukkah background with menorah (traditional candelabra) and burning candles

Hannukah started at sunset Thursday, Dec. 7. The Jewish holiday ends on Friday, Dec. 15. 


Of the Keizertimes

Every year Hanukkah has a different date as Jews follow a Lunar Calendar, mostly Hanukkah falls in December. However observant a Jew may be, people celebrate Hanukkah in traditional and creative ways.  

In 300 BCE (Before Common Era) , Greeks wanted to dominate Jews. Seeking to Hellenize Jewish culture, Greeks started making laws that discriminated against Jews. Eventually, laws turned into anti-Semitic acts such as violence, killings and defiling Jewish temples.  

Due to Greek rule, it was difficult for Jews to have pure oil. It took eight days for them to receive oil. After liberation from the Greeks, Jews lit a lamp at the Jerusalem temple intended for one night. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days.   

Hanukkah provides a representation of the “victory of Jewish people over tyranny.” 

Every community may have its celebration for Hanukkah. Gatherings are to share the message of Hanukkah and light the menorah publicly. 

“To recognize and be thankful for when miracles do happen,” said Rabbi Avrohom Perlstein of the 

Chabad Jewish Center. 

To mark the first night of Hanukkah, the Chabad Jewish Center held a Menorah lighting ceremony at Willamette University. Another public Menorah lighting will be held between at the corner of Commercial and Trade Streets in Salem on Sunday, Dec. 10, at 4 p.m. 

One of the many traditions of Hanukkah is to give money to children. This is to help teach children the value of money. Primarily in America, it has also become a tradition to give kids gifts. However, gifts are not mandated to celebrate the holiday. 

It’s not uncommon for blended families to celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas, but celebrating Christmas is not something that happens in Jewish communities. When celebrating Christmas, blended families may also decorate with blue Christmas lights or Jewish ornaments to be inclusive of Jewish culture. 

“To add a Jewish flavor,” Rabbi Perlstein said. 

Rabbi Perlstein says it’s important to separate the two holidays and have definition of what one is celebrating. 

To celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah, Jews eat fried food. A staple is Latkes, a potato pancake. Additionally, a traditional treat is Sufganiyah otherwise known as jelly doughnuts. These doughnuts have jelly hidden in the middle to represent the miracle of Hanukkah that was hidden in crisis. 

Hanukkah is one of the holidays with no limitations. People celebrate in different and creative ways. One of the reasons for having no limitations is that Hanukkah is not a religious holiday. When lighting the menorah prayers are added to commemorate the holiday but Hanukkah itself is not a religious holiday.  

Rabbi Perlstein says that Hanukkah is a minor holiday in comparison to the other holidays Jewish culture has in September. He says if people had to choose one over the other, to choose the September holidays such as Rosh Hashanah because they are more important. 

“The message of Hanukkah is a universal one,” Rabbi Perlstein said. 

With the rise of violence against Jews and the current conflict between Israel and Palestine, antisemitism has been shown from both the left and right sides. 

Rabbi Perlstein says the nicest thing people can do is to buy a menorah, light it, and have it stand in a window to help show solidarity for Jewish people. 

“Respect for one another will never go away,” he said.  

Rabbi Avrohom Pearlstine