A very Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate, beginning at sundown this evening!

Whew - Hanukkah starts darn early this year! Why is that? Because Jewish holidays are based on the ancient Hebrew calendar, which accounts for leap year differently than the secular calendar. Hanukkah always begins on the eve of the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, and it celebrates "the triumph of light over darkness."

Quick Background

In Hebrew, the word "Hanukkah" means "dedication" — specifically, the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which had been destroyed during Syrian-Greek rule in the 2nd century BCE. Following the Maccabean Revolt, "the victorious Israelites were able to reclaim their beloved Temple." But they only found one tiny last remaining vial of pure olive oil needed to light the Temple's menorah. Yet miraculously, the menorah continued to burn for eight days while a messenger journeyed to another region to fetch more oil.  So began the ritual of lighting one candle per night until all eight Hanukkah candles are lit. That taller candle you see in the middle of the Menorah is the Shamash, or "helper candle" used to light the others. Tonight, we use it to light the first candle only, tomorrow two candles, and so on.

Food & Fun Stuff

As usual, Jewish traditions are mostly about story-telling and food (lots of it, believe you me). We're also pretty fond of making merry by making fun of ourselves. So in that order, some items for your Hanukkah happiness:

Not to bombard you with healthy eating tips, but I did find this set personally pretty useful: "8 Tips to a Healthy Hanukkah"

I also discovered that if you really want to ditch the carbs, there are alternative ways to make latkes (traditional potato pancakes that taste great, but are indeed carb+fat bombs).  Try cauliflower latkes! Seriously, there are lots of recipes on the web for those. And here are some more ideas of veggie-tastic latke options: try making them from cabbage or zucchini.

On the Fun Front, this is my new favorite homemade goofy Hanukkah video:

I also like this one — a little more off-color, but seems to fit the Hanukkah vibe around our place this year. (I'm so unprepared I've been teasing my kids that I'm planning to just drop them off at the mall with some money, so they can pick up their own presents, darn it all! ;) )

Chag Sameach (Happy Hanukkah), Friends!

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