First Person :: What Chanukah Means to Me

Introduction by: Hilary Phelps // Piece By: Jessica Antopol, helpful Intern & Genuine Joy Contributor

I love everything about Christmas. Everything. To me, it's the most wonderful time of year, when we celebrate the close of one chapter and get ready to ring in a new year just a week later.  Christmas is the reason I like snow. I dream of waking up to a white Christmas each and every December 25.  Well, that and a puppy with a red ribbon tied around it's neck bounding in to my bed to wake me up.  Have I mentioned my love for Norman Rockwell and his idealistic images? But I digress...

During our weekly meeting, we were discussing December and how Christmas holiday decor far outweighs that of Chanukah. Today, Jessica, our clever Genuine Joy intern who celebrates Chanukah, has agreed to share the history of the holiday and what it means to her family.  I know little about the holiday and was thrilled that she was willing to share her first person perspective.  I did ask the difference between "Hanukkah" and "Chanukah" to which she said "it's simply a personal preference and how it's translated." Either way is, technically, the correct spelling. Take it away Jessica and Happy Chanukah!

To start, here is a quick summary of the story of Chanukah. It began in about 200 B.C. when Antiochus III, the Seleucid king of Syria, took control of Israel. While he ruled, he allowed the Jews to stay and permitted them to practice their religion. Unfortunately, his son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes did not have the same feelings. When he came to rule, he outlawed Judaism and commanded the Jewish people to worship the Greek gods. To further his control, in 168 B.C. Antiochus IV sent his soldiers to Jerusalem, massacred thousands, and vandalized the holy Second Temple by erecting an alter to Zeus and sacrificing pigs in the temple.

From here a Jewish priest, Mattathias, and his five sons led a rebellion against Antiochus and the Seleucid monarchy. After Mattathias’ death, his son Judah Maccabee became the leader of the rebellion. At his helm, the Jews were able to drive the Syrians out of Jerusalem and were also able to cleanse the Second Temple. The cleanse included lighting a menorah that was meant to be kept burning every night. Unfortunately though, there was only enough oil to keep the menorah lit for one night. Instead, the menorah stayed lit for eight nights, and that, my friends, is the miracle of Chanukah.


As Chanukah starts on Tuesday night I am filled with memories of Chanukahs past. Helping my parents light the candles on the Menorah and reciting the Chanukah prayers with my family. Sharing latkes with my sister and splitting jelly donuts with my grandma. As a young girl, Chanukah meant eight nights of presents ranging from a new American Girl Doll all the way to my own email account (yes it was Hotmail, and yes I still use it). Now, as I begin to enter adulthood, Chanukah means much more. Yes, there are still the gifts, although now it is usually one “big” present (i.e. a nice bag or a new charm for my necklace), but more so, it is the feeling of family. It is now being allowed to hold the match to light the menorah by myself. It is making the latkes and having my grandma assist, instead of the other way around as it was for many years. Chanukah means growing up. It represents change and miracles. And, let’s face it there is no greater miracle than the opportunity to be surrounded by your family.

Chanukah begins tonight at sunset and ends at sunset on December 24, 2014.