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.”

Just Posted

Vancouver Island man runs 500 km for anti-trophy hunting campaign

The 13-day run saw Giordano Corlazzoli run nearly a marathon a day

Travel tips for passing through Victoria’s main airport this holiday season

It may be small in size but Victoria International Airport was voted one of the top 10 busiest in Canada

Taxpayer watchdog treats Victoria to candy cane awards

Grumpy Taxpayer$ honours councillors and boards who helped with transparency in 2018

Saanich won’t be big in Japan; council rejects potential sister-city relationship

Council also refuses to reimburse former mayor Richard Atwell

Heavy rain spurs public health advisory for Greater Victoria beaches

Wastewater along shoreline may pose a health risk

Miniature Christmas Land is back in Saanich

Local family continues to open intense Christmas-themed basement to public

POLL: Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?

The rain Vancouver Island is famous for is coming down in buckets,… Continue reading

Manhunt continues for France shooter

Suspected gunman named, had long police record

‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Shining’ added to National Film Registry

“These cinematic treasures must be protected because they document our history, culture, hopes and dreams.”

B.C. Lions hire DeVone Claybrooks as head coach

Former Stampeders DC succeeds CFL legend Wally Buono

France shooting: 2 dead, several wounded in Strasbourg

A world-famous Christmas market was put on lock down on Tuesday

Canadian warship witnesses possible violations of North Korea sanctions

Crew members on HMCS Calgary took photos and collected other information

Christine Sinclair named Canadian Women’s player of the year again

This is the 14th time Sinclair has been named player of the year

Most Read