While many are wrapping up their Christmas celebrations and heading into New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, some in the community are ending another period of celebration.

In the Golden Triangle and around the world, Jewish communities have spent the past eight days celebrating Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. This year, the festival began on Dec. 22 and officially ended Monday.

Rabbi Seth Oppenheimer of Congregation B’nai Israel in Columbus explained the origins of the holiday. He said it marked the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it was taken back from the Seleucids, who were trying to force Greek culture onto the Jewish people, going as far as erecting a statue of Zeus and sacrificing pigs in the Temple.

A military campaign allowed the Jews to reclaim the Temple,

“There had been a long period where the majority of people were taking what they anted from Hellenism and keeping their own Jewish practices and so on, but this really pushed the majority of people over the edge,” Oppenheimer said. “There was a rebellion that depended heavily on guerrilla warfare and they successfully managed to obtain the Temple in Jerusalem.”

The holiday also celebrates the miracle of the oil. However, Oppenhimer said he was unsure when the oil tradition started or was added to the celebration.

“It was going to take eight days to purify new oil, and there was only enough oil for one day,” Oppenheimer said. “The story is that oil lasted eight days.”

He said the celebration was relatively minor from a religious standpoint, but that particularly in North America it was celebrated at a larger scale due to it falling near Christmas and other winter festivals.

For more on this story, read Tuesday's Starkville Daily News.

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