Hanukkah in Berlin: German president calls Jewish community 'a gift'
Europe's largest menorah is once again aglow as Germany celebrates the start of the Jewish Festival of Lights. Noting Germany's dark history, President Steinmeier condemned the resurgence of anti-Semitic rhetoric.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal celebrated the beginning of Hanukkah on Sunday by lighting a massive menorah in Berlin.
Hanukkah literally means dedication or consecration. The menorah was a candlestick in the temple whose flames should always burn. And in Berlin, the traditional eight-armed chandelier shines every year for a total of eight days during Hanukkah. This year, it's the Brandenburg Gate that's being illuminated to celebrate the Festival of Lights.
Hanukkah at its origins
A Hanukkah menorah also burns at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The symbol is reminiscent of the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 164 BC, and a miracle.
The oil miracle
As the story goes, a tiny lamp with just enough oil to burn for one single day, continued to burn for a total of eight days. That's why the Hanukkah candelabra has eight lights, and the festival lasts for eight days. Each day, another light is kindled until eventually all eight are alight.
Time for reflection
During the Hanukkah festival, the faithful gather in Jewish communities to light candles and read religious texts. In synagogues, psalms of praise are spoken, and special passages from the Torah are recited.
Hanukkah is a joyous festival. In some countries, it is a public holiday, but is usually celebrated among families or with close friends. The menorah is lit immediately after nightfall. Prayers are spoken, songs are sung, and the story of the Hanukkah miracle is told.
The blessing of the oil
It is common practice to consume foods fried in oil - such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (deep-fried yeast pastries). Some customs that originated in the Diaspora are now also observed in Israel - such as exchanging gifts, or spinning a dreidel.
Kitsch and crafts
In addition to traditional Hanukkah products such as culinary specialties and gift items, kitsch and crafts have become an integral part of the festivities - among them Torah scrolls made of plush, or Hanukkah menorahs decorated with Walt Disney motives.
Gifts and candlelight
Hanukkah is also a festival for children. They receive gifts, as here in Shanghai. There are sweets, burning candles - and a lot of time to play. In Israel, schools remain closed during the eight-day Hanukkah festival. Work continues in shops and offices.
Condemnation of anti-Semitism
The history of the Nazi persecution of the Jews is "the obligation and the responsibility" of the Germans, "under which there will be no end," he said.
Steinmeier also condemned the anti-Semitic rhetoric and hate that has once again risen in Germany and across Europe in speeches, on the streets, at schools and online.
The Jewish festival of Hanukkah is an eight-day festival that celebrates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 164 BCE as well as the miracle of the temple's menorah which stayed lit for eight days despite there only being enough oil for one day.
During the festival, families gather together to light candles on their own menorahs, recite prayers, play games and eat fried foods.
The festival this year begins on the evening of December 2 and ends eight days later in the evening on December 10.