Hanukkah Means Food, Family And Lights

One family’s collection of menorahs, lit for the fourth night of Hanukkah. (Olivia Kalsner Kershen/YJI)

WEST HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – “Come on everyone! It’s time to light candles for Hanukkah!” my mother shouts to us from downstairs.
My brothers and I pull away from our homework, cell phones or other distractions and trudge downstairs to celebrate the Festival of Lights.
As I child, Hanukkah was always my favorite holiday. There was great food, time to spend with my family, and presents to pass out, however, today we can barely find time to fit it into the ceaseless day-to-day rush that consumes our household every week.

The story of Hanukkah begins with a successor of Alexander the Great, Antiochus IV, who was in control of much of the Middle East. He banned the practice of Judaism, massacred Jews, and desecrated their Temple.

A menorah lit for the fourth night of Hanukkah, which fell on Saturday, Dec. 20 this year. (Olivia Kalsner Kershen/YJI)

A Jewish rebellion eventually succeeded and the Temple was rededicated, but the amount of available oil looked like only enough for a day. It was supposed to burn all night.  The oil, though, not only burned all night but for a miraculous eight days – long enough to replenish the supply.
Jews mark the miracle of the oil every year by lighting a new candle on the menorah each night of Hanukkah until all the candles are lighted.

Delicious latkes frying on the stove. (Olivia Kalsner Kershen/YJI)

In my family, Hanukkah used to be a holiday my brothers and I looked forward to all year. On one of the first nights, I would help my parents through the laborious process of cooking traditional latkes, or potato pancakes and matzo ball soup; two of my favorite foods.

Later, we would all eat together and then open a few presents.

My brothers and I used to always argue over who got to be the last to unwrap a gift – we thought it made that present the most special.

Even though Hanukkah is filled with a great amount of history and family tradition, it is also one of the most minor holidays on the Jewish calendar.
Compared to Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year, or Yom Kippur, a day of atonement, Hanukkah falls a bit behind.
But I’m not arguing. I enjoy the holiday season and all the togetherness and warmth that comes with it.
Christmas will always take the spotlight in December, but I am never jealous, because I have Hanukkah and all its traditions. After all, it doesn’t matter what holiday you celebrate. All that is important is that you enjoy time with your family as well as all the yearly traditions that make this time of year so special.
Tonight, my family will gather together once again to sing, exchange presents, share stories about our workday, and celebrate the Festival of Lights.
Olivia Kalsner Kershen is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.
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