Heartfelt Holiday Jews Celebrate History, Tradition of Hanukkah

By Patricia Rice Post-Dispatch Religion | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 5, 1996 | Go to article overview

Heartfelt Holiday Jews Celebrate History, Tradition of Hanukkah


Patricia Rice Post-Dispatch Religion, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Morgan Bredow's eyes widened as she watched the spin of the special, square top with a Hebrew letter painted on each of its four sides.

"Nun, gimmel, hai, shin, watch the dreidel spin, spin," the 4-year-old sang Wednesday.

Her classmates at the Saul Spielberg Early Childhood Center in Chesterfield sang along as they watched the top - called a dreidel - slow, then topple to one side. They leaned forward to see which of the four letters landed on top. The letter indicates whether the child spinning w ins all, half or none of the gelt - gold-foil-covered chocolate coins - or peanuts in the "pot." "Hai" they called out. That meant Morgan got half the candy. Like most children, she wished for it to stop on gimmel, which indicates "take all the candy." Tonight, many Jewish children, parents, grandparents and friends will sit on floors and spin dreidels. The special game is part of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, which begins at sundown tonight and continues for 8 days. The game will come after the religious ritual of lighting the menorah. One of its nine candles will be lighted on the first night. Adults will ask the children to tell them about how the Jews revolted against their pagan Syrian captor King Antiochus in 168 B.C. The children may respond w ith a song. Even preschoolers like Morgan and her twin, Ashley, can sing ditties about how Judah and his brothers, the Maccabees, led the revolt and after three years of fighting won. "Who rebuilt the Temple/Tell me, please/I know, I know/The Maccabees," the 4-year-olds sang in class. After they won independence from the Assyrians, the Maccabees went to the temple and pulled down the pagan idols their conquerors had installed. There is a tradition that they found a flask of oil with only enough to burn one day. However, the oil burned for eight days, until they rededicated the temple. …

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