The story of Chanukah is well known one in the Jewish community. In the 2nd Century BC, the Holy land was ruled by the Seleucids (a group of Ancient Greeks). The Seleucids attempted to force the Jewish people to forgo their religious beliefs and adapt that of the Greeks. In an act of resistance, a small group of devoted Jews rose up and against all odds, defeated the powerful Greek Army. When the Jews returned to their ruined temple to light the Menorah (a holy 7 branch light stand) they only found enough of oil to light it for one day. Miraculously, the lit Menorah lasted for 8 days- enough time for new oil to be made and purified. We celebrate Chanukah to remember these miracles and celebrate our faith.
Jewish people celebrate Chanukah by lighting their own Menorahs every night of the festival. The Menorah holds 9 flames, one of which is called the 'shamash', which is used to light the other candles. On the first night we light just one flame, on the second two and so on until we reach eight!
As with most Jewish festivals, there is lots of eating involved too! It is tradition to eat foods which contain lots of oil to remember the miracle of the temple. This means lots of doughnuts and Latkes (kind of like a Jewish Hashbrown)! It is also customary to play with a ‘dreidel’, a 4-sided spinning top with Hebrew letters on each side. The game is usually played for chocolate coins, and you win or lose depending on which letter the dreidel lands on!
To me, Chanukah is all about family. I love spending time with those close to me, lighting the candles, singing songs and eating some great food! This year is a little different as Chanukah falls during the university term time. While I will miss spending Chanukah at home in Manchester, I can’t wait to celebrate with the other members of Newcastle’s Jewish Society!
J-Soc would like to wish everybody at Newcastle University a very happy Chanukah!
Written by Annabel Kramrisch, Treasurer of Newcastle Jewish Society