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What is Channukah?

Last week, I lost two mornings of work. We're getting some roofing work done, and the people who are supposed to do it were supposed to come both mornings "first thing", so I spent the mornings being told "we'll be there soon / in an hour". Needless to say, they weren't, and I wasn't happy. Except for the fact that we've already paid £50 because we needed a quote in a hurry before we bought, I'd have gone with someone else already. And this comes on top of being told a few times "oh, we had an emergency job doing..." or "it's raining, so we can't" especially frustrating when it is not raining at all at the time. If anyone needs any roofing work done in Swansea, the company in question is Ace Roofing & Building. I think you can tell how strong a recommendation it is.

We also had the office Christmas party. It was good to have a social outing with my workmates, although the venue didn't quite do it for me. The dinner place was fine, although loud (at least it was cheesy sixties and seventies rock). After, we kicked on drinking to a range of pubs. I wasn't taken with them. Loud, although only with beats - no actual music - and people having to shout to be heard above it. And smoky. So very smoky. Oh well, not long until April 2nd and at least the cigarettes will be banned.

We are now in the midst of Channukah. Bec and I have just done Havdalah and lit the 2nd candles. Today, we went to Synagogue. I lifted the Torah scroll. Being soon into the Jewish year, most of the scroll was on one side (fortunately for me, the left), but it was heavy. Rebecca had an Aliyah (called to read from the Torah). We then had lunch and visited Bec's friend and workmate, Jess, before coming back home.

Anyway, for my non-Jewish readers, I thought I might give a brief description of what Chanukkah is. Channukah is a minor festival (the major ones are Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, Day of Atonement and New Year) which has taken on prominence because of its proximitiy to other religious festivals at the time, such as Diwali, Yule or Saturnalia, amongst others in a celebration of religious one-upmanship.

Traditionally, we eat fried foods, particularly jam doughnuts, and give children a small amount of money, called Chanukkah Gelt. The former tradition persists, while the latter has morphed into presents. I'd rather the gelt...

The story and significance can be found elsewhere, while a modern interpretation is that it is a standard holiday: they tried to kill us, we won, let's eat. Basically, Chanukkah is a commemoration of the events where the Syrians tried to destroy Judaism by banning the reading of the Torah and forcing certain practices which are incompatible with Jewish practices, as well as desecrating the Temple. The Maccabbean family led a revolt, throwing off the shackles of the Syrians and establishing a Jewish theocracy in (then) Judea. Between guerilla warfare, armed uprisings, forced assimilation, intolerance (on all sides, really), rigid religious theocracy, political corruption, civil war and desecration of holy sites, there is a lot in the story which is inappropriate for small (or not so small) children. It's almost as bad as Purim - worse in that it actually happened. On the other hand, as with many other festivals for a variety of religions, it gradually gets stripped of the ugly and morally dubious connotations, and is left with a nice little one line message. In the case, that Jewish survival - both physical and spiritual - can occur in some quite unlikely and trying circumstances.

I will try to post again before the end of the year. Rebecca and I are going away for the last week of the year. Skiing in Switzerland, if there is any snow. If I don't get around to it before hand, happy whatever-is-appropriate (nadolig llawen for any Welsh-speaking Christians) and transmission will probably resume next year with my one-sentence-per-month review.


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