Article by: Mari Guzman

As Philippine residents, we’re all aware of Christmas and its traditions. From putting up Christmas trees to smothering houses (or malls and construction cranes) with lights, Filipinos take Christmas very seriously. While our Christmas spirit during the holiday season is by no means a bad thing, it can diminish our awareness of other holidays at this time of the year – such as Hanukkah.

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 200 BCE. The commemoration lasts for eight days and eight nights and begins in the Jewish month of Kislev, which falls anytime between late November and late December. Each night, a candle on the menorah, a seven to nine branched candelabrum, is lit and children receive either a gift or traditional “gelt” coins from their family. Throughout the night, families read stories, play with small tops called dreidels, eat latkes (potato pancakes), sing traditional songs, and spend quality time together.

“Baruch Atta adonai eloheinu melekh ha’olam sheheḥehyanu vekiyy’manu vehiggi’anu lazman hazeh.”  These are the first lines in a traditional Hanukkah blessing spoken when lighting the candles of the menorah. It means, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us in life, sustained us, and brought us to this moment.” I found this blessing to be one of the most fascinating of Hanukkah traditions, since its beautiful meaning reminds us of what we should be thankful for.

Since I have never experienced Hanukkah, myself, I interviewed junior Bar Abudi about celebrating Hanukkah in Manila. According to Bar, it is “hard celebrating here, since my whole family isn’t around. In Israel my family and I go to the synagogue together, read stories, and overall just have a really great time.” Though he does “try [his] best to maintain traditions [in Manila], nothing can compare to Hanukkah in Israel.” Hanukkah, in the end, is another wonderful holiday that helps each and every person give thanks for what they have and spend time with the people they love – What’s not to love!

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