At this time of year, Jewish folks the world over celebrate Hanukkah, and have done so for a bazillion years. According to the Old Testament, the Jewish Maccabees (who had just "whooped" the butts of the ruling Syrians) were about to rededicate the newly sanctified Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The blessing required enough purified oil to burn for their eight days of festivities...but there was only one small jar of holy oil to be found enough to burn for just one day. Miraculously, the oil kept a bright flame burning in the temple for all eight days.
Hanukkah...a fun, child-centered holiday celebrated by singing songs and playing children's games, is observed by exchanging small presents on each night, and eating special food (potato pancakes, anyone?). But most importantly, the holiday is celebrated by lighting a Hanukkah candelabra called a menorah.
Each night candles are lit, one candle on the first night, two candles on the second night and so on until there are eight candles lit, representing the miracle of the eight days the oil lasted. Known as the "Festival of Lights," the glow of the Hanukkah candles isn't meant for the illumination of your home, but rather, is for the illumination from your house to the outside world, so that anyone who sees the burning candles might be reminded of the holiday's miracle.
I like the simplicity and thoughtfulness of Hanukkah. (It stands in stark contrast to the traditions of my family, which included lugging a big, musty, plastic tree out of the attic and then spending weeks decorating and then undecorating it.) Each year, my Jewish partner and I light candles at sundown every night of the holiday.
With the menorah set on a shelf below our front hallway mirror, he and I stand together with our dog, Jack, circling our ankles. As my partner Richard says the Hanukkah prayers in Hebrew and the candles are lit, they beautifully illuminate the entryway transom and dining room windows with their warm, twinkling glow.
The distinctive, multicolored Hanukkah candles must be left to burn out by themselves usually in about 30 minutes, and, to this neat-freak's chagrin, they often drip onto the silver menorah or the shelf below.
Did I say dripping candles? Yes, Hanukkah candles do sometimes drip. Sure, there are always distractions from every family ritual, but try to "be in the moment" and don't slip into "freak-out" mode just because something isn't going as planned. Things happen and often the unforeseen can lead to the surprise of a lifetime. (e.g., the miracle of Hanukkah in the first place!). In the event of sloppy candles, ignore them, say your prayers, chase your loved ones around the house looking for hidden Hanukkah gelt (chocolate "coins" wrapped in gold foil) and eat to your heart's content. It's just a little wax and it can be cleaned up tomorrow yes, even a compulsive cleaner like me can chill out once in a while!
Click here to read tips on removing candle wax on the article's second page.
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