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Festival of Lights |

Festival of Lights

Henry Lipman and Melissa Lipman light Hanukkah candles Tuesday in a two-family celebration with their daughters, Bessie-Margaret and Haley Thayer. Bessie-Margaret lights the first candle of a menorah she received when she was born. (Karen Bobotas/ for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Hanukkah: Rededication of religious freedom


LACONIA — The smell of latkes, or potato pancakes, frying in oil took Henry Lipman back to his childhood on Tuesday night as he celebrated the first night of Hanukkah.

The holiday, also called the Festival of Lights, comes at the darkest period of the year and celebrates a time more than 2,000 years ago when Jewish people had only enough oil to light a menorah for a day as they rededicated their Holy Temple after a victory over a tyrant king.

Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, hence the eight nights of Hanukkah, in which colorful candles are added to the menorah each night.

Food, including latkes fried in oil, is a staple of the holiday.

At the city councilor’s two-family celebration in a home near Pleasant Street School, the latkes were accompanied by salmon and horseradish sauce, as opposed to just the applesauce and sour cream of his youth.

This is a relatively minor holiday in the Jewish religious calendar, and is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.

“It was always a simpler, more direct, home-based holiday, and relaxing,” Lipman said. “The candle light is beautiful.

“Always, as a child, it was a gift-giving time. My father was the latke-maker in the house and he always used cast iron skillets.”

Multiple menorahs were used, each with a story to tell. Some were made out of clay by the children. Others may date back to previous generations.

Typically, there are decorations in the home and games are played, including one with a four-sided top called a dreidel. Each side has a Hebrew letter that stands for the Hebrew phrase, “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham,” or “a great miracle happened there,” referring to the miracle of the oil.

Dreidels in Israel have one different letter, to change the meaning to “a great miracle happened here.”

One explanation for the game is that it began in a time when Jewish people had to be secretive in studying the Torah. When authorities came, the Torah scrolls would be concealed and replaced by dreidels.

Lipman said one of the nicest things about the holiday is the family time it provides.

“It’s great to spend time together and enjoy one another’s company,” he said.

He also finds deeper meaning in the holiday.

It stands for religious freedom in that it came after a battle in which the Jewish people preserved the right to worship as they pleased. It also stands for working together toward a common goal, as different factions within the religion had to come together to fight their oppressor.

Both issues are present in today’s world as well.

“We all have our differences, but we can come together on the concept of religious freedom,” he said.

Keeping with family traditions, Henry Lipman reads a prayer in celebration of the first night of Hanukkah. Hanukkah literally means dedication in Hebrew. He said this holiday is the rededication of religious freedom through the miracle of re-establishing the Temple in Jerusalem. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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