London – Hanukkah In Trafalgar Square

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Hanukkah began last night, at sundown, with the lighting of an approximately 30 foot high “Hannukiah” candelabrum – eight candles and a “shamash” (helper) candle on the giant candelabra in Trafalgar Square by the Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, for only the second time in the history of Britain.

It shares the area with the giant Xmas tree gifted by the people of Norway to the people of London, every year since World War 2 ended.

Finally, the year end celebration is multicultural. Last year was the first time ever that Hanukkah had been visible in public in London. Amazing. Then, Lord Mayor Boris Johnson went up in a huge cherry-picker and used a propane torch to light the Shamash and 1st. Candle.

The Hanukkiah (often mistakenly called a “Menorah” which is a candelabra for all year) is the ancient symbol of the Jewish Festival of Lights, a holy time 2,500 years old, and one which Jesus of Nazereth celebrated.

Yet Christian societies have made Jews feel like they had to stay in the shadows, even in Britain, where Jews have lived for at least 1,000 years.

The Hanukkiah is lit to symbolize the ancient miracle which occurred after the Jews won the first war in human history fought for Religious Liberty. It was and still is an important milestone for all Humanity. The small Jewish force, led by the Maccabee family, won against the largest army in the world, at the time, the Seleucid Greeks. This first guerilla war was fought in a savvy way, but the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by these Syrian Greeks, as a parting “shot”.

When the Jews returned to their beloved Temple, only one night’s supply of sacred oil needed to burn as the “Eternal Light” (above the safely kept Ark of the Covenant) was found. That carafe of holy oil lasted eight nights, instead of one. So, an ancient Miracle happened, until new oil could be made and consecrated.

For the 8 nights of Hanukkah, the secular Shamash (worker candle) is lit, and then used to light the proper number of Holy candles each night, until all eight are alight. The holder for the Shamash candle is generally distinguished in some way from the other eight candle’s holders, usually being placed higher than the others. Often the Shamash is in the center, with four of the Holy candles on each side.

In addition to the Shamash, on the first night one candle is placed in the holder on the far right, and is lit using the Shamash. Each night afterwards, for the next 7 nights, one more candle is kindled. The Shamash is used to light the other candles present from left to right, the newest night’s candle being lit “first”. The candles are arranged from right to left, across the Hanukkiah. This is the teaching of the House of Hillel the Sage.

London’s Hanukkiah was lit for the first night last night, and it will remain lit through the evening of December 18. It can burn through the night as it is electronic, not using actual candles. This hanukkiah is actually quite high-tech as it is programmed for color, too..

As a special treat, on the sixth night, which is December 16 in 2009, you can join other Londoners in Trafalgar Square to celebrate the lighting at a Hanukkah (Chanukah) party featuring Hanukkah foods and a live performance by Yiddish singer Shlomo Gertner.

Festivities start at 6p.m. with Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes lighting the Menorah at 6:20 p.m. Following the lighting, chocolate Chanukah “Gelt” (chocolate coins) will be distributed to the children and traditional Hanukkah foods – doughnuts (sufganiyot) and potato latkes (pancakes), will be offered to visitors. These foods are always cooked in oil, to remind all of the Miracle of the Oil.

At home, other Hanukkah foods remind us of the valor of the sister of Mattathias Maccabee, patriarch of the family and and aunt of Judah Ha Maccabee, the brilliant Jewish strategist.

Judith was a beautiful widow, who was also extremely bright and brave. She seduced the main Syrian-Greek general with her conversation, food and dairy delicacies. Then, when he was drunk, she slew him. The cheese latkes and other dairy delights are made at Hanukkah are in her honor.

Because the Jewish calendar is lunar, the Western calendar dates vary a little each year, but it is always on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar.

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©2009 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

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