Chanukah is a celebration about resisting assimilation and the survival of the Jewish people against all odds.
It is a minor festival, so unlike most of our holidays (read: holy days), it is not found in Torah or Tanakh, so it is not a Biblical festival like Sukkot. Biblical holidays (which can happen during festivals, which is confusing, so seriously don’t worry about it) are typically work-restricted, meaning the laws of Shabbat apply. They are days that we should spend at the synagogue. Very observant Jews will not use electricity, discuss business, start or put out a fire, et cetera.
Then there are Rabbinic holidays, which are religiously-rooted observances (often fast days) that aren’t mentioned in Torah or Tanakh. We can typically work on these days, but they have prayers and practices different from the rest of the calendar days.
The Jewish calendar, that is. Which is Lunar. Which means days start at sundown. You can say Chanukah is either 8 days or 8 nights.
The best known Rabbinic festivals is Chanukah.
It’s also the most fun. And involves the most fried foods.
If you’re a Birmingham Jew looking for a last minute Chanukiyah or gentil looking to try some latkes, you don’t have to go far. Here’s what to do during the Festival of Lights:
Kick off your Chanukah by eating a lot of latkes. A LOT of latkes. There’s also a raffle. And the religious school will be providing some top notch entertainment.
The Beth El gift shop is also having a sale and is fully stocked with all sorts of Judaica goods, year-round and seasonal.
Join Chabad of Alabama at Skates 280 and the folks from Camp Gan Israel for hot dogs and latkes.
Chabad knows how to throw a party.
This annual event is like a family reunion for Birmingham’s Jewish community. Members of all 4 of the city’s synagogues (and those unaffiliated) cram into the area outside of Saks Fifth Avenue and there’s a lot of hugging and selfies. It’s a good time.
If you don’t know anyone (and at events like these, that’s nearly impossible), there’s a lot of food. There’s usually pizza, some other little snack-y things, an donuts. Lots of donuts.
Because that’s the Israeli way. Jelly-filled donuts, or sufganiyot, are deep fried and covered in powdered sugar. To y’know, remember the miracle of oil! Latkes, everyone’s favorite potato pancakes, aren’t nearly as common in Israel as they are the US.
Judaism After Dark
Max Rykov strikes again with this comedic celebration of all things Jewish. The official event description reads:
“JUDAISM AFTER DARK” Christmas got you down? Tired of all the tinsel and eggnog and jolly cheer? Well, we’ve got the perfect escape for you! On the 8th, and final night of Hannukah, Saturn will be filled with Dreidels and Latkes and Menorahs and all your favorite non-Christmas related Christmastime delights! Not only will we be celebrating Channukah (an alternate spelling), we’ll also have plenty of interactive Jewish silliness for Jews and Gentiles to participate in! Never had a Bar-Mitzvah? We got you! Want to learn some Yiddish? We’ll supply some lessons! Circumcisions? Half off! Come learn about Jewish culture, while laughing and noshing on some Jewy snacks. We’ll also be debuting the “Nice Jewish Guys of Birmingham Calendar”, benefiting our friends at Faith in Action Alabama. The best part? It’s all FREE!”
Don’t bring your kids to this one. And whatever you do, do NOT miss this.
No matter where or how you celebrate your Chanukah this year, may it be filled with light, laughter, meaning, and good food.
Oh, and here’s a list of all the ways you CAN spell Chanukah/Hannukah/Hanuka: