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Hanukkah Design Brief by Denise Beverly

Hanukkah Design Brief: Menorah Miracles, Honoring Heritage and Celebrating Chanukah

Denise Beverly is a stay at home mom of one, wife, self-taught photographer/digital artist living in beautiful East Tennessee. A Christian, in awe of creation, seeking to express gratitude and a creative spirit through her art. Check out her shop, db Visual Arts.

Hanukkah or Chanukah as it can be called is a holiday based on a miracle.  The eight-day festival of light begins at sunset on Tuesday evening, December 20, 2011 and it celebrates the triumph of light over darkness.  

More than twenty-one centuries ago, a small band of faithful Jews defeated a mighty army and took back the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  They wanted to rededicate it to the service of God.  However, when they sought oil to light the Temple Menorah, a seven-branched candlestick, they found only a small jar of oil that had not been defamed by the defeated Greek Army.  This small jar of oil, equal to one days supply, miraculously lasted the entire 8 days.  In order to commemorate the miracle the festival of Chanukah was instituted.  

To honor the heritage of the Jewish people, the lighting of the Hanukkiyah takes place and is a centerpiece of the festival. The Hanukkiyah is a candelabrum with eight candleholders in a row and a ninth candleholder, called the Shamash or “helper” candle.  The Shamash is lit first, is used to light the other candles, and then is returned to the ninth candle spot, which is set apart from the others.  While different from the seven-branched menorah used in the temple it is nonetheless a menorah. 

On the first night a single candle is lit, on the second two, the third night three and so on until all eight are lit on the final night. Prayers of thanksgiving and praise, Hallel and Al HaNissim are added to the daily prayers.  These traditions remind those involved of past provisions and miracles.

However, amid the solemn and ritualistic traditions, there is a great deal of joyous and fun celebration. Children play with the dreidel, a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, "a great miracle happened there.  It is brightly colored and has a total of 8 sides shaped much like a blocky cone upside down. There is also the giving of Chanukah gelt, or gifts of money, to the children.

Wonderful foods fried in oil are also in abundance, Latkes , a yummy potato pancake , Sufganiot, a type of fried jelly-filled doughnut; Loukoumades are deep-fried puffs dipped in honey or sugar and in the more modern days a variety of cheeses and dairy have also been added to the symbolic foods for this celebration.

Overall this is a time of Menorah Miracles, Honoring Heritage and Celebrating Chanukah.  Cards could be created with symbols of the festival such as the menorah, dreidel, or scrumptious fried foods piled high on plates.  Traditional colors of blue, white and silver are acceptable as well as the image of the Star of David.   A time of light overcoming darkness, family and, friends good food and miracles.  A combination that is hard to beat these days.