By LAUREN MARKOE Religion News Service
You may know the basic props of Hanukkah: a menorah, a dreidel and chocolate coins. But here’s the inside story on Hanukkah, which began Tuesday at sundown.
Q • Isn’t this a no-big-deal Jewish holiday that’s pumped up just because it falls so close to Christmas?
Hanukkah is considered a minor Jewish holiday, and the story it commemorates — the ancient and outnumbered Maccabees who triumphed over their Hellenistic oppressors to preserve their faith — is not based in the Torah, the Hebrew Bible.
And there’s no denying that Hanukkah is a bigger deal in majority Christian nations because it’s celebrated near — and sometimes on — Christmas. With all the Christmas hoopla, it’s not surprising that Jews have turned Hanukkah into a grander celebration than it might have been otherwise.
But Hanukkah is still important, and underscores one of the most significant themes in Jewish history: the struggle to practice Judaism when powerful forces seek to extinguish it.
Q • Why does the miracle of Hanukkah lead Jews to eat jelly donuts?
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