The night of December 8th begins the Jewish holiday of Chanukah. Or Hanukkah. Or Chanuka. Or Hanuka. There are even more ways to spell it than there are days in the holiday. And although the little menorah in the window of your local bank or grocery store may be dwarfed by the giant Christmas tree, this Festival of Lights that celebrates the dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem more than two thousand years ago, rocks pretty hard. Here are eight reasons why—one for each day of presents!
1. It celebrates a miracle. More specifically, the miracle that oil enough to burn for only one day ended up burning for eight days, until more oil could be made ready for burning. Maybe that doesn't seem so amazing in the days of electricity, but think of it instead like a Doctor Who episode that kept going for eight hours when you thought it would end after just one—now THAT would be a blessed event!
2. Celebrities! Scarlett Johansson, James Franco, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jake Gyllenhaal, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and many more awesome actors all (presumably) celebrate Chanukah. Enough that Adam Sandler was able to write not just one song about the celebrities that celebrate Chanukah, but three! Are there three Adam Sandler songs about Christmas? NOOOOO! Just one.
3. Potato Latkes. [Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Latkes_frying.JPG] Yes, french fries and potato chips are pretty awesome, but latkes are even better, and at least worthy of consideration as the best potato-derived product of them all. Especially the nearly-burnt, crunchy edges (We'd weigh in on the longstanding applesauce/sour cream debate, but that would need a post of its own... although you can offer your pick in the comments).
4. Dreidelmania. (seriously): an attempt by Sinai Temple in Los Angeles to break the Guinness World Record for most dreidels spun simultaneously. Unfortunately, the record of 541 dreidels, set by Temple Emanuel of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, was safe. (But you can watch a video about it.) Who said going to temple wasn't fun?
5. Fake money made out of chocolate. [Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chanukah_gelt.jpg] It's called Gelt, and it is both the awesomest thing ever, AND delicious. Okay, maybe that's not the awesomest thing EVER, but it's better than fake money made out of carpet filings. And it's better than trying to eat actual money. Ever try eating pennies? They don't taste very good.
6. Jelly doughnuts. Yes, half of these are about food, but every Jewish holiday except for Yom Kippur (the 24-hours-of-fasting Day of Atonement) is at least 90% about the food. Fried in oil, they are a key part of any Chanukah celebration (Just reading Martha Stewart's recipe will make you hungry).
7. Pets! You can dress your dog in a hat shaped like a menorah. Why you would want to do this, we have no idea. But if you do, they actually make and sell this product. Truly awesome.
8. War. Finally, at its heart, Chanukah is actually a celebration of battle. The story behind the miracle involves the Maccabees fighting against the King for control of Jerusalem. The holiday celebrates the Jews' victory when they finally took back the temple. And at the end of it all, they gathered around, ate chocolate coins, made potato pancakes, and went to see the midnight showing of Les Miz with their Aunt Mitzie. THE END!
Applesauce or sour cream with your potato latkes? Choose a side!