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From the archives: Chanukah fun facts

In our search through the IJN archive for mentions of latkes and gelt, an item caught our attention: “Light on Chanukah” is a compendium of fun facts about Chanukah published ahead of the holiday on Dec. 20, 1945 (which that year began on Dec. 24, probably one of the latest first nights of Chanukah ever).

We published 77 years’ worth of issues since then, that is 77 further Chanukah, so we were amazed — and yes, properly chagrined at our presumptuousness that by now there couldn’t be anything we didn’t know about Chanukah — to learn some new tidbits about the Festival of Lights from the list compiled by Bernard Postal of B’nai B’rith. Such as:

The first day of Chanukah can never occur on a Tuesday.

Today we light one candle on the first night of Chanukah and an additional one on each successive night. But once it was customary to light eight candles on the first night and to reduce the numbers on each successive night.

The kindling of Chanukah lights was prohibited in the third century CE in Persia because the fire-worshipping Magians were in power.

Among the many explanations advanced for the origin of the name Chanukah is that it comes from Chanok, or Enoch, a character in Genesis, the great-great-great-grandson of Adam, who lived 365 years, and who is associated by mystics with light because his years on earth equalled the number of days of the sun’s journey.

One of the poems in Lord Byron’s “Hebrew Melodies” — “On Jordan’s Banks” —was set to the music of “Maoz Tzur” by the great poet’s Jewish friend Isaac Nathan.

Mr. Postal concludes his piece, written a few short months after the end of WW II, with these inspirational words: “In light of what is happening in the world today, it is significant that the Biblical verse from the Prophet Zecharia, which is read in the synagogue during Chanukah, is: ‘Not by might and not by power, but by My spirit, saith the L-rd of Hosts.’”

Read the full Light of Chanukah in the Dec. 20. 1945 IJN!

This online feature explores the IJN’s new digital archive, discovering the news of the week, years ago.

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