Hanukkah & St. Nicholas Day Celebrated This Week

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This week, December 2-10, 2018, starts the celebration of many holiday traditions.

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights, with a candle lit each day in observance of this holiday.

The festival is observed by lighting the candles of a candelabrum with nine branches, called a Hanukkah menorah (or hanukkiah). One branch is typically placed above or below the others and its candle is used to light the other eight candles. This unique candle is called the “shamash.” Each night, one additional candle is lit by the shamash until all eight candles are lit together on the final night of the holiday . Other Hanukkah festivities include playing dreidel and eating oil-based foods such as larkes and sufganiyot, and dairy foods. Since the 1970s, the worldwide Chabad Hasidic movement has initiated public menorah lightings in open public places in many countries.

Significance: The Maccabees successfully rebelled against Antiochus IV Epiphanes. According to the Talmud, a late text, the Temple was purified and the wicks of the menorah miraculously burned for eight days, even though there was only enough sacred oil for one day’s lighting.

Please acknowledge our Jewish friends as they celebrate this holiday.

St. Nicholas Day is observed annually on December 6th. It is also known as The Feast of St. Nicholas and is widely celebrated in Europe. St. Nicholas Day celebrates the third-century saint who sold all his possessions and gave his money to the poor. Raised to be a devout Christian, his whole life was dedicated to serving the sick and suffering. There are several legendary stories about St. Nicholas which later become part of the inspiration for the modern-day Santa Claus.

For example, during the third century, a daughter was more likely to be married if her father could offer a large dowry to prospective husbands. The story goes that a poor father with three daughters had no dowry to offer. On three separate occasions, it is said good Ol’ St. Nicholas made bags of gold appear in the girls’ shoes drying by the fire at night.

While St. Nicholas Day traditions include leaving gifts in shoes (or stockings) or the exchange of small gifts, it is not to be confused with Christmas. Traditionally, treats are left for good boys and girls, and a twig or chunk of coal for the naughty ones.

Interesting facts associated with St. Nicholas:

  • He is the patron saint of a great many causes including sailors, travelers, clergy, school children and thieves, just to name a few.
  • He was born in the village of Patar, which was located on the southeastern coast of modern-day Turkey.
  • He was buried in a tomb in Myra, where water believed to have healing powers formed in his grave. It is called the Manna of Saint Nicholas.

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