Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday also known as the Festival of the Lights, begins at sundown Wednesday and ends Dec. 9. The eight-day celebration stems from an event that occurred more than 2,300 years ago in Jerusalem.
Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in the second century B.C., after the Jewish people were driven out by Syrian King Antiochus, who outlawed the Jewish religion. He ordered all the Jewish people in Judea, now called Israel, to give up their beliefs and religious customs and worship Greek gods.
To that end, Antiochus ordered his army to place new symbols and statues in the Holy Temple for Judeans to worship.
A Judean citizen named Judah Maccabee refused to follow the king's decree and raised an army against the king's soldiers. His army was given the family name Maccabee, which means hammer in Hebrew. After three years of fighting, the Maccabees defeated Antiochus's forces and reclaimed their temple.
After cleaning the temple and rebuilding the altar, the Jews wanted to light the eternal flame called the N'er Tamid, which is present in every Jewish house of worship and should never be extinguished.
Unfortunately, only a small amount of suitable olive oil could be found and it would keep the flame burning for only one day. But the lamp miraculously stayed lit for eight days and nights.
Today, Jews celebrate the Maccabees' triumph by lighting special candles and giving small gifts to children. A favorite for children is gelt, a term for money. The roots of the custom, according to Jewish Outreach Institute, could go back further than the Middle Ages, when it was thought to have originated.
Children can make a special gelt bag like this with instructions by Amanda Formaro I found at crafts.kaboose.com/gelt-bag.html.
Supplies you will need:
—1 6-inch-by-4-inch piece of dark blue felt.
—1 6-inch-by-6-inch piece of white felt.
—1 1/2-inch-by-6-inch strip of light blue felt.
—Small wooden circles.
—White craft glue.
—Gold acrylic paint and brush.
Paint the wood circles with gold paint and set aside to dry.
Fold the dark blue piece of felt in half (short sides at the top and bottom) to form the bag. Glue the sides together and place the light blue strip in the corners of the bag to make a handle. Let dry.
Cut two triangles out of white felt, small enough to fit on the front of the bag. Cut the centers out of the triangles.
Glue one triangle, point side up, to the front of the blue bag. Glue the other triangle, point side down, on top of the first triangle to create the Star of David.
Fill the bag with gold-painted circles to represent coins.
If you have a craft idea or question, contact Kathy Antoniotti, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, Ohio 44309-0640; 330-996-3565; or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.