Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Sixth Candle Is Lit ....

The Sixth Candle Is Lit ....

David and Tricia invited Bonnie and Mike over to participate in the Family Chanukah celebration on Tuesday, 15 December 2009, which included the lighting of Candle #6 on the menorah. We found Tricia cooking the traditional fare of latkes, which are potato pancakes, eaten to symbolize the central theme of the holiday, the miracle of oil. Tricia told me that many of the foods are cooked with oil to carry on this theme - Tricia used Omega Light Oil made with Canola oil, soybean (vegetable) oil, and olive oil. There is a custom of eating foods fried or baked in oil (preferably olive oil), as the original miracle of the Hanukkah menorah involved the discovery of a small flask of pure olive oil used by the Jewish High Priest, the Kohen Gadol. This small batch of olive oil was only supposed to last one day, and instead it lasted eight.

Accordingly, potato pancakes, known as latkes in Yiddish, are traditionally associated with Hanukkah, as they are prepared by frying in oil. Latkes are an incredibly versatile food because, depending on the recipe, they can be an appetizer, side dish, entree, vegetable, dessert or snack. Tricia served hers with applesauce, or alternatively, with horseradish.

Similarly, many Israeli families have the custom of eating all kinds of jam-filled doughnuts (Yiddish: פאנטשקעס pontshkes), (sufganiyot) which are deep-fried in oil. Ours were the quick-fry type of sufganiyot, and thus were more like donut holes. The kids are shown in the picture shaking the still hot sufganiyot in either powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. Yummy!

Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights celebrated in countries all over the world. In 165 B.C. there was a great battle between the Maccabees and the Syrians. The Jews won the battle and when they went to their temple, they found that the Syrians had allowed their sacred light to go out. They only had oil for one day. The miracle of Hanukkah is that the oil lasted 8 days until a messenger could return with more. There are nine candles in the menorah. One of the candles is used to light the other candles and the other eight stand for the eight days that the oil kept burning. You put the candles in the menorah right to left, and light them left to right so the oldest candle is put in first, and the newest candle is lit first. The last night, nine candles, counting the server candle, will glow. Hanukkah lights should burn for at least one half hour after it gets dark.

David reminded me that there are many spellings of this Hebrew holiday, because the English is transliterated from Hebrew. You'll see H-a-n-u-k-k-a-h a lot because that is the Associated Press spelling.

Christmas is always on 25 December however Chanukah falls on a different date each year in relationship to the common calendar, because it's a lunar calendar that loses time yearly. To compensate, a leap year adds a 13th month every few years. That leap month is called Adar II. In truth, Chanukah falls on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which was Dec. 12 this year and will be Dec. 2 in 2010.

Parents give their kids Chanukah gelt (gold-wrapped chocolate coins) and other trinkets for eight nights to enhance their enjoyment of the holiday. On this 6th night, Bonnie and Mike, and Ian and Charlene, were instructed to close our eyes, and when we opened them, we each found before us Hanukkah cookies and both gold and silver-wrapped coins. A miracle indeed! Bonnie and Mike fought over theirs. The kids were pretty good.