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By Amy Cassanitti

Hanukkah is nearly upon us. Jewish holidays are calculated on a lunar-solar calendar which means that the exact date of the holidays will shift a bit from year to year. This year the dates for Hanukkah are November 28 – December 6.

In brief, Hanukkah is a holiday which celebrates a miracle. Long ago, in a land far away, a small group of poorly armed Jewish soldiers and settlers defeated the mightiest army at the time, the Greeks, and reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem for the Jewish people. When the victorious Jews entered the Temple to relight the Menorah (a seven branched candelabrum), there was only oil for one full day. They lit the Menorah and witnessed the miracle. The oil lasted for eight days!

Whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or None (as in no religious affiliation or atheists or agnostics), a holiday which celebrates the miracle of bringing light into the dark feels exactly what so many crave during these winter months. Light into the darkness is also an image for bringing good into situations of lack. So, always increase in matters of goodness and good deeds.

And Hanukkah, like the Christmas holiday which follows it, has lovely and timely music associated with it. Here are a few selections which you may or may not recognize.

“Haneirot Halalu” is the traditional hymn sung after lighting the candles. The Hebrew translates as “we kindle these lights [to commemorate] the saving acts, miracles and wonders which You have performed for our forefathers, in those days at this time, through Your holy priests. Throughout the eight days of Hanukkah, these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make use of them, but only to look at them, in order to offer thanks and praise to Your great Name for Your miracles, for Your wonders and for Your salvations.”

“Light One Candle” by Peter, Paul and Mary. Written in 1982, Peter, Paul, and Mary remind listeners to “Light one candle for the strength that we need / To never become our own foe; / Don't let the light go out, / It's lasted for so many years! / Don't let the light go out! / Let it shine through our love and our tears!”

“Left to Right” song by Michelle Citrin with video by William Levin. This song from 2008, celebrates the meaning of Hanukkah “bring light into the dark” and prompts listeners how to light the Menorah candles. The video is a delightful montage of clips of people the world over sharing the Hanukkah light.

“Dreidel” traditional. This little song celebrates a game traditionally played during the Hanukkah season. A dreidel is a four-sided top with letters which represent the Hebrew letters that are an acronym for “a great miracle happened there.” The game is played for coins, nuts, or really any items of value.

And now the best part. The miracle of Hanukkah involved oil. Therefore, it is customary to eat foods fried in oil. From potato latke (pancakes) served with applesauce or sour cream or the jelly-filled sufganya (doughnut), Hanukkah is a time for good food and good music!

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