On December 10 this year, the eight-night celebration of Hanukkah (or Chanukah) begins and lasts until December 18. It’s easy for most people to label Hanukkah as nothing more than a “Jewish Christmas” due to its close proximity to Christmas as well as modern culture linking the two holidays in more recent times through consumerism and media. However, the “reasons for the seasons” between the two could not be further apart.
The genesis of Hannukah can be traced back to 160s BCE in Jerusalem. During this time, then King Anitochus IV had outlawed the practice of Judaism to force the Jews to worship the Greek gods. A group calling themselves the Maccabees (named after the leader Jewish priest Mattahias Maccabee and his son Judah) was able to force the King and his disciples out of the Judea region. They retook the Second Temple in Jerusalem and rebuilt the altar.
Since Judaism was outlawed for part of the year, the group felt it was imperative to start celebrating the holidays they missed. They started by celebrating Sukkot, an autumn holiday. Sukkot involves the ritual of lighting candles on the menorah for seven days. However, they only had enough oil for one night. Not deterred, they lit the Menorah, preparing to celebrate an abbreviated version of the holiday. But to their joyous surprise, the oil lasts not one night, but eight in total. This “miracle” is the reason why Hanukkah is celebrated for 8 nights.
EVPL offers a wide range of nonfiction resources and fictional portrayals of Hanukkah and all and its various aspects. Below is a list of highlighted titles that are available through Overdrive, Hoopla, and/or as a physical copy.
Menorah Under The Sea by Esther Susan Heller
Follow marine biologist David Ginsburg at the McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica as he celebrates Hanukkah in one of the most desolate places in the world.
From a leading voice of the new generation of young Jewish Americans who are reworking the food of their forebears, this take on Jewish-American cuisine pays homage to tradition while reflecting the values of the modern-day food movement.
Food is one of the most joyous ways to experience other cultures, and cooking unfamiliar dishes can add even more to the said experience. Try out these recipe books and explore Jewish recipes (including ones relevant to Hannukah) through your own cooking.
If local history is a personal passion for you, we have a book for you. It may not exclusively focus on Hannukah celebrations, but it’s a more intimate view of the Jewish religion that most people only regard in a general sense.
Light the Menorah!: A Hanukkah Handbook by Jacqueline Jules
A guide to Hanukkah that leads you through holiday history, rituals, activities, songs, and recipes for celebrating the holiday. Even though it is labeled as Juvenile Literature, this guide is for anyone who’s interested in a deeper dive into the holiday.
We also offer plenty of Hannukah focused books for the young ones. Here are a few selections from our catalog.
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