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By Roz Rogoff

About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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What is Chanukah all about?

Uploaded: Dec 11, 2015

That's a pretty good question. Chanukah isn't considered an important holiday in the Jewish religion, but it has been increased in status because it occurs near Christmas and may involve giving gifts. The marketers for toys and baubles want Jews to buy stuff too, so Chanukah has become a good excuse to encourage that.

Jewish children may also feel left out of the gift giving at Christmas. Our non-Jewish friends at school all had presents to show off and what did we get – a dreidel!

A dreidel is a small top with Hebrew letters on each side that indicated how much money you won for each spin. Historically it was used by Jewish men for gambling the way we would use dice today.

When Israel was occupied by the Hellenic Empire in Syria in 200 BC, the Greeks and Syrians did not permit Jews to gather for their religious services. The Temple was occupied by Greek soldiers to prevent the Jews from holding services there.

Chanukah celebrates the victory of a small band of Jewish revolutionaries over the Syrian and Greek occupiers who outlawed the Jewish religion and forced Jews to convert to the Greek religion of that time.

Jewish services required a minion, or 10 men, to hold a religious service. So the men would gather to gamble, which in those days meant betting on the spin of the dreidel. When soldiers came to check on these groups, the men would be gambling, which was legal, and not worshiping, which was illegal.

Years later children would be given a dreidel and "Chanukah gelt," or money, to use for playing the dreidel game. The money was either small change or chocolate wrapped in gold foil to look like coins. This gift of money evolved into presents to match those given to Christian children at Christmas. But Chanukah isn't a fun holiday. It represents the persistence of Jews in being Jewish.

The menorah or candle holder is used to represent the rededication of the Temple after defeating the Greeks. There was only enough holy oil left for one day, but the flame burned for 8 days. So the menorah has eight candles, one for each day the oil lamp lasted and one more that is used to light the increasing number of candles each night.

Why does Chanukah start at different times each year? That one's easy. Our current calendar is based on the Gregorian Calendar established by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The Hebrew Calendar originated around 200 AD and is best explained in an an article in Wikipedia.

The two calendars use different methods for calculating months and days. That's why Chanukah is sometimes close to Christmas and other times, like this year, a couple of week earlier.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Harald Paul Arthur Balle, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 12, 2015 at 8:56 am

Thank you, Ms. Rogoff, for excellent reporting on our December celebrations among many groups and cultures. Diverse celebration of many cultures fulfills all of us as people together.

Joyous thoughts at Christmas,


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 12, 2015 at 10:23 am

Roz...Lets not forget to pop into "M" should you visit Buenos Aires!

Web Link

Scroll down to the "M"!

Feliz Chanukah!

Posted by American, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 12, 2015 at 10:53 am

Roz: Curious why sometimes it is spelled Chanukah & sometimes Hanukkah? Any significance?

When I was 12 I went to my buddies Bah Mitzvah & realized that although I was Irish Catholic we had something in common: Booze! Wine flowed freely at Bah Mitzvah celebration just like Guiness & whiskey flowed at Catholic baptism & first communion celebrations! Nothing like alcohol bring faith's together!

Posted by anony, a resident of California Reflections,
on Dec 12, 2015 at 11:17 am

American: Web Link


lopo popo

Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 12, 2015 at 12:40 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.


Thanks for answering American. It's another translation spelling. Some Jews pronounce Hanukah as "Haanuka" and some use the guttural Ch sound, which sounds something like clearing your throat. I use the "H" pronunciation but it can be spelled either way.


Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 12, 2015 at 1:17 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.


A Kosher McDonalds doesn't surprise me. It surprises me that there isn't one in New York City or LA.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 13, 2015 at 12:01 pm

It's the only Kosher McDonalds in the WORLD!

Posted by Billie, a resident of Mohr Park,
on Dec 14, 2015 at 10:58 am

Billie is a registered user.

Hoping Chanukah has been filled to the brim with health and happiness for you and yours!

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 15, 2015 at 10:16 am

This is where all the good stuff happens: Web Link


ps the treats are ALWAYS yum yum plenty!!!

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 16, 2015 at 9:51 am

Roz...if you want to clap you hands, then check this out!!!

Web Link

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 16, 2015 at 10:03 am

Roz...When I heard this kid singing it was SO COOL I thought it was me singing!

Web Link

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