Hanukkah, which takes place Dec. 3 to 10 this year, remains a fairly
low-key and meaningful event, despite the example of Christmas. In part,
this is because Hanukkah, as some local Jewish organizations will discuss
in upcoming programs, is a celebration rooted in a commitment to
Though Christmas has come to be an extremely secular holiday celebrated
by many people who don't hold any sort of Christian beliefs, Hanukkah is
an event whose entire reason for being is tied to the persistence of the
Jewish faith in the face of persecution.
The holiday marks the victory of the Maccabees, a group of Jews led by
Judah Maccabee, over the army of King Antiochus Ephiphanes in 165 B.C.E.
Antiochus had cut off the Jews' right to practice their religion and
imposed many other restrictions on their livelihood.
When the Maccabees retook the Temple of Jerusalem from the king, they
hoped to cleanse the temple of the "defilement" of their Greek enemies.
But only one day's worth of undefiled oil was available to burn in the
menorah of the temple, and it would take many days to prepare a new
supply.The small amount of oil is said to have lasted for eight days,
however. Today's Jews commemorate the event by celebrating eight evenings
of Hanukkah -- a word that means "rededication" -- each with its own
candle on the menorah.
Gift-giving is a part of Hanukkah because the holiday is supposed to
benefit the less powerful: children and the poor are often on the
receiving end of this impulse.
But celebration -- of religious freedom and religious community --
remains the strongest note of the holiday.
Local Jewish organizations have scheduled a number of events designed to
bring people together to mark the historic occasion.
Newport Beach's Temple Isaiah will hold a potluck dinner and its Hebrew
school will present a program on the history of the event. Temple Bat
Yahm plans events for every night of Hanukkah, including a concert of its
children's choir at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Dec. 5.,
religious school services Dec. 7 and 8 and a dinner for preschoolers Dec.