After eight days of celebrating the festival of lights, the Jewish holiday Hanukkah comes to a close Thursday.
Many families across San Antonio on Sunday will celebrate Christmas Eve, surrounded by family, friends, and a Christmas tree adorned with lights and ornaments.
Congregation Agudas Achim, a Conservative Jewish community on the city’s Northside, educates its children on Jewish holidays, so they can talk about Hanukkah with their classmates at school. If their peers ask them why they don’t celebrate Christmas, Congregation Agudas Achim youth can explain the significance of Hanukkah and the menorah – and the miracle they represent.
Hanukkah celebrates the Jewish community’s triumph over religious persecution. In 166 B.C., a small group of Jews called the Maccabees rebelled against Syrian King Antiochus IV after he outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered Jews to worship Greek gods. After the Maccabees recaptured Jerusalem from the Syrians, they rededicated their temple. In order to purify the temple, the Maccabees sought to burn ritual oil on the temple’s menorah for eight days. They only had one small jar of oil – enough for one day – but miraculously the lamp stayed alight for eight days.
To commemorate this event, many Jews light the first candle on the 25th of Kislev and continue lighting one additional candle every day until the eighth day. They typically recite blessings during this ritual and display the menorah in a window to remind others of the miracle that inspired the holiday.
This story was originally published on Dec. 24, 2016.