Local News

Celebration of Hanukkah begins tonight

SEBRING - Hanukkah, the holiday that some wrongly call the Jewish version of Christmas, will in a rare event to be celebrated by Jewish people in Highlands County and throughout the world at the same time as Thanksgiving this year.

Lorraine Rudenberg, the rabbi at Temple Israel of Highlands County, said an estimate is that Hanukkah will not be celebrated at the same time as Thanksgiving for another 70,000 years.

The reason why the date of Hanukkah changes - it's generally celebrated for eight days in December, sometimes coinciding with Christmas - is that Jewish holidays are based on the lunar calendar, which has 11 less days than the more commonly used Gregorian calendar, Rudenberg said.

Another factor that affect it is that every several years, a leap month is added so that holidays remain within certain seasons, she said.

In Sebring, Jews will hold their community celebration of Hanukkah at Temple Israel of Highlands County. During the Erev Shabbat service beginning at 7:30 p.m., the second of eight lights on the menorah will be lighted. After the service, the celebration will include potato pancakes and dreidels, four-sided spinning tops that are traditionally part of the holiday, Rudenberg said.

While some have called Hannukah the Jewish version of Christmas, Rudenberg said, the holidays have no connection.

In Christianity, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Hannukah relates to the liberation of the holy temple seized by Syrians many years ago, Rudenberg said.

A relatively small number of Jews recaptured the holy temple, she said.

When they entered the temple, they found only enough oil to light the temple for one day, but in what appeared to be a miracle, the light shined for eight days, Rudenberg said.

That is why the holiday is for eight days and eight candles are lit on the menorah, Rudenberg said.

"It's a holiday of religious freedom," she said.

While Christmas is considered a major holiday in Christianity, Hanukkah is not of the same stature, the rabbi said.

She said that's because most Jewish holidays are derived from the Bible. Hanukkah is based on historical events, she added.


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