San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hanukkah: Festival of Lights

ON December 7, Jews all across theworld will start celebrating Hanukkah andCosta Rica is no exception.The holiday, also known as the Festivalof Lights, commemorates the rededicationof the Temple in Jerusalem after a group ofJewish warriors defeated the Syrians, whohad desecrated the Holy Temple.The victory of the Maccabees, in arevolt that took place around 165 BCE,allowed the Jews to reclaim and rededicatethe Temple of Jerusalem from the Syrianking, Antiochus IV. They entered theTemple and cleared it of the idols placedthere by the Syrians. The Maccabees thenbuilt a new altar and made a new Menorah(candelabrum) from a cheaper metal sincetheir golden one was stolen by the Syrians.When they wanted to light it, theyfound only enough sacred olive oil to burnfor one day, however, it miraculously continuedto burn for eight days until new oilwas made.The eight days of thanksgiving andlighting candles commemorate the event.A “moveable feast,” Hanukkah usuallyoccurs in December but sometimes falls inlate November. This year this importantcelebration runs December 7-15.Traditions– THE lighting of the Menorah: Jewslight candles in a special candleholdercalled a “menorah” or a “hanukkiah.” Themiddle candle, called the “shamash,” is litfirst and then is used to light each of theother candles every night. Each night, onemore candle is added. On the first night ofHanukkah, two candles are lit (theshamash and the candle of the first night)and on the last night, there are nine lit candles.– The saying of the blessings: specificblessing are recited each day during thelightning of the candles.– Songs: it is customary to sit by theHanukkah lights and sing traditionalsongs.– Food: dairy foods and foods fried inoil are eaten during these eight days. Someexamples are cheese, potato latkes (pancakes)and sufganiots (jelly donuts).– GELT: after lighting the candles it iscustomary to give gelt (money) to the childrenand to charity. This adds to the festivespirit and brings happiness to all.– Dreidel: also called “sevivon,” is aspinning four-sided top that is used to playa guessing game: on which side will it fall?The dreidel dates back to the times of theHanukkah story. Since Jews were prohibitedfrom gathering to study their religion,they would hide to do so. If caught theywould pretend to be playing with the dreidel.Public CelebrationDuring the eight days of Hanukkah,Chabad Lubavitch of Costa Rica will lightdaily the Menorah next to the Costa RicanSoccer Federation in La Sabana.All the Jews of Costa Rica are welcometo attend the public event regardlessof which congregation they belong to. Forthe exact time in which the lighting willtake place, please call the offices ofChabad Lubavitch at 296-6565.Hanukkah Shopping– Little Israel: Pavas, in front of theShell Gas Station, sells everything youneed to prepare a Hanukkah feast: potatolatke mix, ingredients for jelly donuts,several types of cheese and many otherJewish foods. Also sells latkes and donuts,290-2083.– Hallmark: Hanukkah cards andwrapping supplies.– Chabad Lubavitch of Costa Rica:in Pavas, 20 m. north of the CuscatlanBank, has candles, candleholders andbooks for blessings for sale. Yummy Potato Pancakes for HannukahPotato Latkes Recipe:Ingredients:5 large potatoes, peeled1 large onion3 eggs1/3 cup flour1 tsp. Salt1 tsp. pepper1 cup oil for fryingUse: 10-inch skilletYield: 4 to 6 servingsGrate potatoes and onion on the fineside of a grater, or in a food processor; orput in a blender with a little water.Strain grated potatoes and onionthrough a colander, pressing out excesswater. Add eggs, flour, and seasoning. Mixwell.Heat oil in skillet. Lower flame andplace 1 large tablespoon batter at a timeinto hot sizzling oil and fry on one side forapproximately 5 minutes until goldenbrown. Turn over and fry on other side 2 to3 minutes.Remove from pan and place on papertowels to drain excess oil. Continue withremaining batter until used up, addingmore oil when necessary.Serve with applesauce on the side.Variation: Zucchini or Carrot Latkes:Substitute 5 medium zucchini or 5 mediumcarrots for potatoes.From: “Spice and Spirit, The CompleteKosher Jewish Cookbook,” published byLubavitch Women’s Cookbook Publications.

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