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The word for the Jewish Festival of Lights is Hebrew for "dedication."
The celebration, which started Wednesday, marks the rededication of the Jewish temple, which was desecrated.
Rabbi Morton Kaplan, who serves at Temple Beth Shalom in Hickory, said the eight-day holiday is a time of celebration with family and friends.
"It's really a home celebration, for the most part," he said.
Jews gather with their families at home during Hanukkah and light the candles of the menorah, which commemorates lighting the lamp in the Jewish temple more than a century before the common era.
Kaplan said the Greek-Syrian empire attempted to eliminate the Jewish faith, and during that attempt, it desecrated a Jewish temple. The Jewish holiday celebrates the Jews' refusal to go along with the empire's attempt and the ultimate rededication of the temple.
"The legend is that when they rededicated the temple, there was only enough purified oil to last one day," Kaplan said.
The oil, however, lasted eight days until new oil could be prepared.
Now, one candle is lit on the first night of Hanuakkah, two are lit on the second night, and three are lit on the third night until are are lit on the final day of Hanukkah.
Children receive presents during Hanukkah, and some families choose to give the children a present for each day of the celebration, Kaplan said. Other families decide to have a different family member, like aunts, uncles and grandparents, give the children a gift each night.
Kaplan said some Jews choose to incorporate portions of Christmas traditions into their holiday celebrations.
"Most Jews do not have Christmas trees," Kaplan said. "Some view it as a secular holiday, but most don't have Christmas trees in their homes."
Kaplan said Hanukkah arrives earlier this year than usual. When the holiday occurs is based on the religion's calendar. Unlike Christmas, Hanukkah doesn't fall on a certain date each year, but varies based on the religious calendar.
This movement is similar to the way the Easter holiday moves around each spring, Kaplan said.
Temple Beth Shalom serves about 60 families, which Kaplan said is about 150 people, in the Hickory and Unifour areas. Kaplan is the temple's permanent, part-time rabbi.
Temple Beth Shalom, which is located at 4360 N. Center St. in Hickory, will hold its annual Hanukkah party Saturday. People attending the party will enjoy games and latkes, which are traditional potato pancakes, during the celebration. The event starts at 5 p.m. and will also include a covered-dish potluck dinner, Hanukkah crafts for the family and a community menorah lighting.
For more information about Temple Beth Shalom, call (828) 327-4081 or visit www.hickoryjewishcenter.com.