Tuesday, November 30, 2010

THE ORIGINS OF Hanukkah/Hannukah/Channukah/Chanukah

Ancient Russian Menorah

"Put on your yamukah
Here comes Hannukah
So much funnukah
To celebrate Hannukah"

It’s that time again on the Jewish Calendar…Hanukkah.

This year (5771 Hebrew/2010 Gentile) Hanukkah will begin, as always, on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. Sundown on December 1st for you goyim.

Hannukah, Hanukkah, Channukah. Chanukah --
the chestival of lights, the festival of lights, whatever.

In Hebrew, the word "Hanukkah" means "dedication." The word “chanukah” shares the same root as the word "chinuch" - education. So depending upon how you choose to spell it, it means dedication or education.

The holiday/holyday commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish victory over Antiochus, the Greek King of Syria in 165 B.C. (That would be on the Christian calendar --Before Christ, or if you prefer B.C.E. Before the Common Era) Three years earlier, the Greeks had seized the Holy Temple and turned it into a temple for Zeus. They then tried to force the Jews into worshipping their gods, eating pork, wearing cute little togas and opening coffee shops. Did the Jews get all verclempt? Nah, what are you meshugenah? Instead a chap named Mattathias, a Jewish High Priest, refused to take part, whipped out his sword and gutted a few Greeks. He and his merry band of Jews headed for the hills (No, not Beverly Hills.) 

About a year after his rebellion started, Mattathias croaked. His son Judah Maccabee took over. After three years of fighting, the Jews defeated the Greeks. The headline in the New York Post read: TORAH BEATS TOGA! 

The Maccabeans went to rededicate the Holy Temple and relight the menorah, a sacred lamp. Problem was, they could only find enough oil to keep it lit for one day. And as things happen in Biblical times, miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days. Today, Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting the menorah each night, thus commemorating the eight-day miracle.

It's important to note that Hanukkah celebrations aren't based on anything from the Hebrew bible,but instead come from the Apocrapha, writings which aren't considered of Divine origin.  Apocrypha comes from the Greek word ἀπόκρυφος -- meaning "hidden." It has evolved into the word “apocryphal” whose meaning denotes something of questionable value or in the modern parlance: B.S.

Here’s a passage from the Apocrypha from the book of the Maccabees:

Then all the people fell upon their faces, worshipping and praising the G-d of heaven, who had given them good success. 
56: And so they kept the dedication of the altar eight days and offered burnt offerings with gladness, and sacrificed the sacrifice of deliverance and praise. 

59: Moreover Judas and his brethren with the whole congregation of Israel ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Casleu, with mirth and gladness. 

So let the mirth and gladness begin.

Seven-branched candelabra visits the city of seven hills.

The traditional Hanukkah menorah has 9 candles
but the original seven-branch menorah was built with design specs from g-d:  “Make a lampstand of pure gold and hammer it out, base and shaft: its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms shall be of one piece with it."  Exodus 25:31

There’s some belief that the original menorah symbolized Moses’s burning bush. Some say the seven branches symbolized the seven known planets in the universe, or the seven days. Ultra-secular Reform American Jews suggest it's the Seven Dwarfs.

When the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD they brought the big kahuna candelabra back to Rome as booty.  At which point the lamp took on a meaning of the Jews’ desire to rebuild the Temple.

Hanukkah menorah user instructions:

On the first night of Hanukkah, one candle is lit and on each successive night another is added until the eighth night when all the lights are lit. Candles are placed in the menorah from right to left, but lit from left to right. The highest candle, known as the Shamash or "servant", is used to light the other candles

So what’s with the candles, dreidels, latkes and jelly donuts?

Due to the menorah connection this was an oil-themed celebration.  Olive oil is no longer used in the menorah, it has been replaced by candles. But following the original oily origins of this holy day; foods cooked in oil remain a part of the tradition.

A big favorite are sufganiyot -- jelly doughnuts.

Latkes are another hot potato this time of year.
They are potato pancakes made from grated potatoes mixed with eggs, onions, and flour, and fried in vegetable oil. Of course, they aren’t strictly traditional. The Maccabean soldiers didn’t eat potato latkes, since potatoes are indigenous to the Americas and the New World hadn’t been discovered yet. But they taste a hell of a lot better than the sawdust latkes they used to eat.

So what’s with the weird top with the funny writing?

Dreidel, baby. You gotta spin it to win it!

The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter inscribed on each side. The letters stand for "A Great Miracle Happened There". The Yiddish word "dreidel" is derived from the German word "drehen", or "turn".

Everyone antes up some money or candy and gets their turn at spinning the dreidel.

When it falls, it will land on one of the 4 letters:
Nun - no win / no lose
Gimmel - take all (from the kitty)
Heh - take half (from the kitty)
Peh or Shin - lose (your bet)

The game continues until players go bust.

The dreidel game was popular during the rule of Antiochus. As the story goes when pious Jews gathered to study the Torah, they had the top ready in case they heard soldiers approaching. If the soldiers appeared, they would hide the Holy Scriptures and pretend to play with the dreidel.

As you may have noticed by now there was no bush involved in the story. There is no such thing as a Hanukkah bush. A Hanukkah bush is merely a Christmas tree with a Star of David on top instead of a Star of Bethlehem. It's not too late to order your Hanukkah bush tree topper today! Order before sundown and get free schlepping!

And not to burst the bubble, but there is no such thing as a Hanukkah Harry or a Ramadan Ron for that matter.

Jewish children get a gift on each night of Hanukkah. In some homes it is traditional to give “Chanukah gelt” coins (either chocolate coins or the U.S. mint version) to children after testing them on Jewish subjects, like--- How many eyes did Sammy Davis Jr. have? What was Hank Greenberg’s lifetime batting average? The correct answers are one and .313.

Anyway, they get 8 gifts. Eat your hearts out goyim.

It took a New York Jew, Irving Berlin, to write the quintessential Christmas song: White Christmas. It also took a New York Jew, Adam Sandler, (born in Brooklyn 1966) to write the quintessential Hanukkah Song.

I leave you singing the original lyrics to his instant classic:


Put on your yamukah
Here comes Hannukah
So much funnukah
To celebrate Hannukah

Hannukah is: the festival of lights
Instead of one day of presents
We have eight crazy nights

When you feel like the only kid in town
Without a Christmas tree
Here's a list of people that are
Jewish like you and me:annukah

David Lee Roth
lights the menorah
So do Kirk Douglas, James Caan
and the late Dinah Shorah

Guess who eats together at
the Carnegie Deli?
Bowser from Sha-Na-Na
And Arthur Fonzarelli!

Paul Newman's half Jewish
and Goldie Hawn's half, too
Put them together,
What a fine looking Jew!

You don't need to Deck the Halls
Or Jingle Bell Rock,
'Cause you can spin the dreidel
With Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock!


O.J. Simpson [not a Jew]
But guess who is? Hall of Famer Rod Carew [He converted]
We got Ann Landers and her
sister Dear Abby,

Harrison Ford's a quarter Jewish
Not too shabby
Some people think Ebenezer Scrooge is
Well, he's not, but guess who is --
All three Stooges!


So many Jews are in Show Biz
Tom Cruise isn't but I think his agent is

Tell your friend Veronica
It's time to celebrate Hanukkah
I hope I get a harmonica
On this lovely lovely Hanukkah
So drink your gin and tonica

But don't smoke marijuanica
If you really really wannika
Have a Happy Happy Happy Happy Hanukkah

Happy Hannukah Everybody!



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