Did you notice your heating bill to be surprisingly low this month, or that your got exceptionally good mileage? Perhaps you experienced a small recreation of the miracle of Hanukkah.
When the Jews reclaimed the Temple of Jerusalem from the Syrians in the second century, they had enough oil to light the menorah, which was supposed to burn all night, every night, to keep it lit for one day. Yet, somehow, it burned for eight nights, which was how long it took to get more oil. A miracle!
The Jews celebrate this miracle with an eight-day holiday every winter during which one candle is lit on a menorah for each day of the celebration. In the 20th Century, North American Jews started exchanging presents to make Hanukkah a Jewish alternative to the Christmas gift-giving. Listen to Mason tell Devan about his Hanukkah.
Devan: So how was Hanukkah?
Mason: It was pretty good! You know it came really early this year so uh…
Devan: Is it different every year?
Mason: Yeah, the Jewish calendar kind of shifts around so sometimes it starts like the 4th of December which I think is when it started this year, and sometimes it starts like on Christmas Day.
Devan: Weird. I didn’t know that. So it’s eight days, right?
Mason: Eight straight.
Devan: I learned that from the Adam Sandler song.
Mason: Most people did. There’s a love-hate relationship with that song for most of the Jews, I think, because it gave Hanukkah a pretty good public profile, put us out there.
Devan: So what did you do? Did you spin a dreidel and light some candles?
Mason: I did the menorah every night, that’s the candle holder, but I didn’t play any dreidel. It just totally snuck up on me. That’s kind of the problem with these roving holidays.
Devan: And what do you do? Do you give presents like Christmas?
Mason: I was actually talking with some friends about this. I was raised, my parents don’t get in a present frenzy. They got my sister and I presents but there was never a “I have to get everyone in the family presents.” The Christmastime shopping blitz that everyone goes on makes no sense to me.
Devan: Oh, that’s interesting. Do you celebrate Christmas too or just Hanukkah?
Mason: No. I hate those people who do both.
Mason: Pick one. Stand strong.
Devan: But then you get double the celebration, double the fun.
Hanukkah was particularly early this year, so Mason didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. He didn’t play any dreidel, a game with a top that children play during Hanukkah, because he wasn’t very prepared for the holiday this year.
Mason’s immediate family exchanges gifts for Hanukkah, but he doesn’t exchange gifts with his extended family or his friends. The amount of Christmas shopping a lot of people do seems strange to him.
Most of what Devan knows about Hanukkah comes from a song by comedian Adam Sandler about the holiday. Mason says Jews tend to both like and dislike the song since it helped make Hanukkah more popular but also sort of makes fun of it.
Devan asks Mason if he celebrates Christmas also, and he says he thinks people ought to choose one holiday or the other.
Most cultures have a winter holiday. Did you celebrate a holiday this winter? Which do you think is better, a one-day, intense holiday like Christmas, or an eight-day, low-key holiday like Hanukkah?
❹ Grammar Point
Notice how Mason says that Hanukkah sometimes starts on “like the fourth of December.” In informal conversation, you can use “like” to refer to a guess about time. For instance, it someone asks you when a movie starts and you don’t know exactly, but know that it’s in the late evening, you could say, “I don’t know, like nine or ten, I think.”
Also, since Hebrew can be difficult to translate into English, Hanukkah has several alternate spellings. Among them: Hannukkah, Chanukah and Channukkah.
Hanukkah is the celebration of a miracle involving…
❶ ...a car.
❷ ...a heater.
❸ ...a menorah in the Temple of Jerusalem. ✓
❹ ...a gift-giving frenzy.
Which of these would Mason not give a present to for Hanukkah?
❶ His father.
❷ His brother.
❸ His uncle. ✓
❹ His son.
If something is happening close to 6 o’clock, it’s happening…
❶ ...at like 6.
❷ ...around 6.
❹ All of these. ✓
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