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Culture

The Festival of Light

December is not only a festive season for Christians. This year Jews celebrate their Festival of Light or Hanukkah during the second week of December.

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Today is the start of Hanukka

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates, among other things, freedom from religious and ideological persecution, freedom of belief, and the victory of light over darkness. It also celebrates a very special miracle that occurred in 167 BC.

When the Jewish people, led by Judah the Maccabee in 167 BC, defeated the Syrian king Antiochus and regained control of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, they found the Temple in ruins. Almost everything had been destroyed by the Syrians.

The Jews cleaned the temple and prepared to celebrate their return by relighting the "Ner Hatamid" or, "the candle of eternity". To the Jews' dismay, they found that almost all the oil vessels in the Temple had been polluted and that only one oil vessel had the high priest's seal left on it. This one acceptable vial of oil held only enough oil to burn for one day. But, surprisingly enough, the drop ended up burning continuously for eight days and nights. This gave the Jews enough time to prepare new supplies of holy oil to keep the 'eternal candle' burning bright.

To recall the miracle, Jewish people eat foods cooked in oil, such as latkes, for all the eight days of Hanukkah.

Today, Jews around the world celebrate the miracle of oil by lighting the menorah, or Hanukkah candelabra during the Hanukkah holiday. And to this day, every Jewish temple has a "Ner Hatamid" that burns without interruption and serves to welcome all who visit the temple.

The main symbol of Hanukkah, the nine-armed candelabra, is called a menorah. In comparison to the colourful, abundant Christmas lights, the light of these candles is soft and hushed. Nevertheless, the Jewish holiday Hanukkah is called the Festival of Light.

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