Celebrating the Jewish holiday Hanukkah: An interview with Matthew Thompson

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Celebrating the Jewish holiday Hanukkah: An interview with Matthew Thompson

A glow in the window. The menorah is the traditional candle holder for Hanukkah; 9 candles are lit for each day of the holiday.

A glow in the window. The menorah is the traditional candle holder for Hanukkah; 9 candles are lit for each day of the holiday.

A glow in the window. The menorah is the traditional candle holder for Hanukkah; 9 candles are lit for each day of the holiday.

A glow in the window. The menorah is the traditional candle holder for Hanukkah; 9 candles are lit for each day of the holiday.

Brooke Eldridge, Staff Writer

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The purpose of Hanukkah is to celebrate the Jews´ victory over a tyrant king, and the re-dedication of the second Temple in Jerusalem. So when a small family of Jewish people gathers around their dining room table, a feast is beautifully presented before them. The menorah is delicately lit, each of the eight flames dancing brightly. The food displayed shows crisped potato pancakes (latkes), shimmering doughnuts (sufganiyot), and many other oil-based foods. The oily treats represent the oil used to light the menorah.

The ´Candlelight´ video is an overview of the holiday of Hanukkah celebrated by people who follow the religion of Judaism. Included with a catchy remake of a previous song, the Maccabeats, a Jewish singing group, portray an interesting history of the holiday and religion.

Matthew Thompson, a social studies teacher at South Forsyth High School, is not follow the Jewish religion himself, but his wife and two sons do. This interview provides more context into the life of Jewish family celebrating Hanukkah. 

Q: What is Hanukkah?

A: Hanukkah is a festival of lights that lasts 8 days to celebrate the Jews reclaiming the temple in Israel from the Greeks who were not allowing them to practice their religion and their culture. The Seleucid in Greece tried to force their culture on the Jews and put Greek temples in the Jewish temple and made the Jews unable to practice their language or their religion. Judah Maccabee, a lead rebellion against the Greeks, reconquered the temple. When he did, the temple only had enough sacred oil to last them one day, because the temple had been defiled the miracle of Hanukkah,¨ Mr. Thompson began to explain. However, even though the oil supply was meant for just a single day, the oil lasted for all eight days, so the Jews celebrate this by lighting a menorah candle with eight lights, one for each night of Hanukkah. ¨Another way people like to celebrate is using dreidels, which is […] a game that teaches children the Jewish letters for the acronym ¨a miracle happened here.¨ This game is played by spinning dreidels, which are much like dice, and Jewish children can win chocolate (or “gelt” in Hebrew). Each night the children get a gift; On the first day, they receive a smaller gift while on the last day they get the biggest gift.

Q: What are your family traditions for the holiday?

A: Though I am not Jewish, my wife and my two boys are. On each night of Hanukkah, the Menorah is lit and a small prayer is said, then the children get a gift. At the end of the day, the menorah is left lit near the front of the house by the window. There is also some traditional food like a potato pancake called a “latke”, which is often eaten with applesauce. There are sometimes parties for friends and families and usually, the game of spinning the dreidel is played with the gift of chocolate coins.¨

Q: Why is Hanukkah important to you?

A: Hanukkah is important for people who are Jewish because it is a celebration of a miracle of the preservation of tradition and the maintenance of the Jewish identity under duress and oppression. Hanukkah is a time of joy and hope for Jewish people and recognizing a miracle that was given by God.

The importance of Hanukkah can be shown all around the world, even for those who do not participate in the Jewish holiday. People can appreciate this special Jewish holiday; it is a celebration of overcoming oppression and discrimination against them. While most of the population is Christian and focus on Christmas, a way to expand your knowledge on other religions is to look and experience other holidays.

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