SPFHS community celebrates 2018 “Festival of Lights”

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Julia Sassoon

Beginning on Sunday night, Dec. 2, Jewish families all over the world came together to celebrate the eight days of the Festival of Lights. For those who do not know, Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday which celebrates the Maccabee’s defeat of the larger Syrian army. The term “Festival of Lights” refers to a miracle that occurred in Jerusalem, where just a day’s supply of oil allowed the menorah in a temple to remain lit for eight days.
 
People everywhere have their own holiday traditions and ways of celebrating Hanukkah, from latkes and dreidel spinning, to presents and lighting the menorah. A few Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School students shared their Hanukkah traditions and experiences with the Fanscotian this year.
 
Junior Abbie Friedman enjoys a traditional Hanukkah with her family every year. On the first night, she enjoys a delicious latke dinner. Then, as most families do, her family lights an additional candle on the menorah every night after dinner. At the end of the eight days, her family goes to her grandma’s house for a huge family party.
 
“To me, Hanukkah means spending time with my family and getting to celebrate something important to my religion,” Friedman said.
 
Another SPF student, senior Emily Smulewitz, does not have any specific family traditions, but has fond memories of Hanukkah and is enjoying celebrating it. Her grandparents joined her family for some dreidel-playing and latke-eating this year.
 
“My favorite part about Hanukkah is watching the candles from when they are first lit to when they burn out,” Smulewitz said. “The lights look so pretty!”
 
Junior Tara Wolman shares in a similar experience, lighting candles every night with her family and enjoying tasty dinners throughout the eight days. Not only this, but she received many exciting gifts this year, including the most notable ones: a pair of Lululemon leggings and Ugg slippers.
 
Senior Alex Fischmann celebrates the holiday with her family by lighting their favorite dog-themed menorah. Many families have their own special menorahs, whether they are fun themed ones, menorahs they made as children in Hebrew School or ornate ones that have been passed down through generations. Fischmann’s personal favorite part of Hanukkah is the food, especially latkes.
 
“My family lights the candles each night and gives presents,” she said. “Sometimes, we will go to a candle lighting at our synagogue.”
 
Hanukkah is a wonderful time for Jewish families and communities to come together and celebrate. Hanukkah is not “Jewish Christmas.” It is its own holiday with its own history and a variety of traditions. The specifics of how people celebrate Hanukkah may differ from family to family, but they all have in common a joyful eight days of celebration.