Hanukkah: Celebrating a Miracle

November 25, 2010

One of the world’s most joyous holidays starts Wednesday night. People in Costa Rica and around the world will begin observing Hanukkah, sometimes referred to as the Jewish Festival of Lights, at sunset Dec. 1.

Hanukkah lasts for eight days, beginning on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the lunar Jewish calendar. That usually translates into a solidly December holiday in the secular calendar, although occasional, rare spills into November or January occur during some years.

The holiday commemorates events that grew out of the Jewish Maccabean army’s victory over Greek occupiers in 165 B.C., and the subsequent rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem following its desecration by the invaders. (Hanukkah – its variant spelling is Chanukah – means “dedication” in Hebrew.) Just a scant amount of clean oil was found to light the menorah, the temple candelabrum, but the lights burned for eight days.

Hanukkah is a time for lighting menorahs each of its eight nights and spinning the dreidel, a small, four-sided top embossed with Hebrew letters.

For more on the holiday, we turned to the experts, some of the kindergarten students at the Hebrew Day School in the western San José district of Rohrmoser. They have been learning about Hanukkah and had this to tell us during a visit last week by The Tico Times:

“A long, long time ago there was a very bad king, and his name was Antiochus. He didn’t like eating kosher. He didn’t let the Jews learn Torah (the Bible). He didn’t let them do circumcision. And the Jews went to hide and they started learning Torah. And whenever the bad people would come, the Jews would quickly put away the Torah and they would take out the dreidel and they would start playing with it and make them think that they were playing with the dreidel the whole time.”

–Shaina Spalter

“The four (Hebrew) letters on the dreidel are nun, gimmel, hei, shin.”

–Alex Gurfinkiel

“That stands for ‘Nes gadol haya sham.’ (A great miracle happened there.)”

–Tami Rosenstock

“A long time ago the Jews prepared for a fight with the bad people. Antiochus went and destroyed things in the Temple. And they put pigs on the altar. They broke the menorah. They touched the oil. Then the Jews cleaned it up and put things back like they were. They found a little bit of oil and they thought it would last for one day. But it was a miracle because it was enough for eight days.”

–Jaya Fainzilber

A holiday isn’t a holiday without its special foods, of course, and Hanukkah is no exception. The eight days are an excuse to consume oily foods in honor of the miracle of the oil. Latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) are special favorites. Both Little Israel (Plaza Los Laureles, Escazú, 2228-9775) and Kosher Center (Pavas Highway, 2232-2991) prepare these foods this time of year, and Little Israel sells Hanukkah gelt (chocolate coins) and dreidels.

Facebook Comments

You may be interested

Pic of the Day: Costa Rica’s Isla Nublar (aka Cocos Island)
Pic of the Day
78 views
Pic of the Day
78 views

Pic of the Day: Costa Rica’s Isla Nublar (aka Cocos Island)

Alejandro Zúñiga - April 18, 2019

Isla Nublar, the setting for much of the "Jurassic Park" series, is unfortunately not a real Costa Rican island. Cocos…

Costa Rica holds Maduro regime responsible for diplomat’s safety
Costa Rica
12 views
Costa Rica
12 views

Costa Rica holds Maduro regime responsible for diplomat’s safety

AFP and The Tico Times - April 18, 2019

The Costa Rican Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that it places responsibility with the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro for…

Venezuela withdraws diplomatic credential from Costa Rican diplomat
Latin America
28 views
Latin America
28 views

Venezuela withdraws diplomatic credential from Costa Rican diplomat

AFP and The Tico Times - April 17, 2019

Venezuela withdrew the diplomatic credential from the Costa Rican chargé d'affaires on Tuesday in retaliation for the country’s acceptance of…

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!