History of Chanukah: The Festival of Lights

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Menorah
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Arch of Titus, Roman Forum

Customs

One of the most important Chanukah customs is to light colorful candles in a menorah or candelabrum with eight branches, one for each night of Chanukah plus one prominent one that holds the candle to be used to light the others, for a total of 9 stems. On the first night, one candle is lit and each succeeding night another is added so that all eight are alight on the last night. Some menorahs have seven branches as described in Exodus 25:31–40. I took this picture at the 1st-century Arch of Titus at the eastern entrance to the Roman Forum, depicting Jewish slaves being brought to the Imperial City as part of the triumph parade following the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Food

Because the Chanukah story involved oil, foods fried in oil are traditional for the holiday. Potato pancakes appear to have come to us from Russia. There Jews made “latkes” or pancakes from a great variety of ingredients, from cheese to buckwheat flour to noodles. Legend says that women behind the lines, during the Jews’ fight against the Syrians 2,000 years ago, made flat cakes for the warriors because they could be prepared quickly.

Silicon Valley Tech Exec: Cloud, Data Storage, Automation. Author of fascinating articles about history, tech trends, andpop culture. Blog: http://billpetro.com

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