Celebrating December’s other holiday

Hanukkah celebrates light of the eternal flame

Ira Rose

Three-year-old Ira Rose already knows the candle in the middle is the “helper candle”.

The Saanich youngster is slightly put off by the ceremonial candelabra that features a “helper candle” to the far left and raised from the other eight, instead of in the middle like most of the hanukkiah in Janna Bleviss’ collection.

The Oak Bay woman’s array includes her childhood hanukkiah and one she got for her 50th birthday. The one Ira noticed, for example, spells out Hanukkah in Hebrew.

“If you have a Christmas tree, you collect different ornaments as the years go by. This is the same,” says Janna.

The seven-candled menorah is used all year for Jewish worship and ceremony. At Hanukkah there are nine candles, the eight marking the miracle and a ninth to light them with.

Hanukkah commemorates the 165 BC victory of the Maccabees, a Jewish rebel army, over the Syrians and the subsequent rededication of the holy temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees found enough consecrated oil in the temple to light its eternal flame for one day. The lamp burned for eight.

Hanukkah, which started Tuesday and ends Dec. 24, celebrates that rededication of the temple.

“We celebrate that. We don’t celebrate the war, we celebrate the light,” Janna says. “There’s always a light on in the temple, even today in the synagogue there’s always a light on.”

The first night includes an extra prayer, a blessing used for something new, it’s also said at the start of other celebrations.

“It’s just a happy celebration,” says Morris Bleviss. “Others are related to the seasons … or contemplative.”

Each night after that first includes two prayers. The candles are left to burn down each night, with the hanukkiah placed in a window to share the celebration, Morris says.

“A lot of families do get a present every night,” adds Katy Rose, Ira’s mother. It’s something they may broach in their family, as Ira is at an age where he notices the difference between other celebrations taking place in the city and among his peers.

Those eight evenings also tend to include a great spread featuring traditional foods such as the fried potato cakes called latke, which can also vary from household to household.

“Every family has their own favourite recipe,” Katy says, pumping Janna for more information about her recipe.

“I hand grate [the potatoes] so it’s really a labour of love,” Janna replies with a smile. Plus there’s the high egg-to-potato ratio.

The two women look on as Ira and Morris light the candles in demonstration, using the “helper candle”.

“There’s nothing at the synagogue around this, it’s a happy home holiday,” says Janna. “This is probably the newest Jewish holiday. It’s not in the Bible … It’s a family holiday. The kids are the focus.”

There, points out Katy, is a bit of irony.

“It’s the holiday everybody knows about,” she says. “It is good for the Jewish kids to have something of their own, because Christmas is so all-encompassing.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vehicle ends up upside-down in creek along Happy Valley Road

One motorist in care of emergency services

Saanich mayor joins fight to protect local wildlife from rat poisoning after second owl dies

Mayor Fred Haynes to meet with provincial, federal pest control industry representatives

Greater Victoria writer releases first novel inspired by U.S. school shootings

Dear Mr. President tells thought provoking story of victims left behind

Sidney fire responds to fewer but more severe calls during pandemic

Rise in severity linked to changes in routine during COVID-19 pandemic

Minimum wage goes up June 1 in B.C. as businesses face COVID-19 challenges

The minimum wage jumps by 75 cents to $14.60 an hour on Monday

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Man dies in ATV accident south of Nanaimo

Incident happened on backroad Friday night in Nanaimo Lakes area

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Most Read