Sunday, December 18, 2016

Celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas

In a rare occurrence, this year Hanukkah, the festival of Lights, begins on Christmas Eve. It is usually days or weeks before December 25, depending on the Jewish calendar. It lasts eight nights and is marked by the lighting of candles in the home, one candle for each night until all eight lights burn brightly.

One legend tells of finding the Temple in Jerusalem desolate and desecrated. It was cleansed and rededicated by Judah and his brothers. With a little flash of holy oil expected to last only one day, they relit the great Menorah. Miraculously, the oil lasted eight days and over the years the custom of lighting Hanukkah lights developed into the festival celebrated today by Jews all over the world.

Hanukkah is a happy celebration, Jews sing songs, play games (especially with a dreidel—a four-sided top)—eat potato pancakes called latkes, visit with family and friends and give gifts. It is considered a good deed (mitzvah) to give to those in need. Originally, gifts were coins given on one night. Today gifts are often given each night for the eight nights. Gifts can be small and not expensive or elaborate, depending on what people can afford.

If you have lost a child, no matter your religion, Hanukkah and/or Christmas can be a daunting time of year remembering all the good times you had while they were alive. When the time is right—it can be months or even years--get back into the spirit of the holidays by helping yourself and by helping others. 

I have been on the road of grief for many years, but now I have a new reason to celebrate, a grandson. I see those who are ahead of me and know they can help too in many ways. I also see those who are just starting the long journey. I and others can give them words of encouragement and hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I wish you all peace, a pleasant holiday and hope for the year ahead.

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