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Ahava ‘Aina to host Hanukkah celebration this weekend

The Jewish community of East Hawaii, Ahava ‘Aina, invites the public to join in and celebrate Hanukkah this year on Sunday (Dec. 9).

Festivities will begin at 4:30 p.m., and the entire community is invited for this holiday gathering — friends, family members, neighbors — and especially children of all ages. There will be songs, games and crafts, three kinds of homemade latkes (potato, zucchini and sweet potato) and a variety of desserts.

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The celebration will be held at the Hilo Women’s Club at 7 Lele St. Overflow parking will be across the street at Carvalho Park.

For tickets, go to the Ahava ‘Aina website, www.ahavaaina.org, and click on the Hanukkah link. The price is $18 for members, $36 for nonmembers, and $9 for children under 12.

Hanukkah candles will be lit, and guests are asked to bring as many menorahs as they have. You don’t have to be Jewish to join in the fun.

This year, the eight-night festival of Hanukkah is celebrated from Dec. 2 through Dec. 9.

The holiday commemorates when the Temple in Jerusalem had been defiled by the Greek occupation — the Greeks had contaminated the olive oil used for lighting the menorahs (seven-branched candelabras) so that no rituals or ceremonies could be conducted. When the Maccabees rebelled against the Greeks and kicked them out, they found only one flask of oil remaining. It didn’t contain enough oil to conduct the eight days of cleansing rituals needed to restore the temple. Though there was only enough oil for one day, miraculously the oil lasted for eight days.

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The following year, 165 BCE, the Sages established Hanukkah as a permanent holiday of praise and thanksgiving, and so has it remained ever since. It has been celebrated for 2,163 years. The word Hanukkah means “dedication.”

How Hanukkah is celebrated: Each night at sundown another candle is added, starting from right to left, and prayers are said. The foods served are symbolic, which is typical for Jewish holidays. Because the Hanukkah miracle is all about oil, fried foods are served — usually latkes (little pancakes) and other treats. There are also games for the children. Songs are sung, and the Hanukkah story is told.