Jews celebrate Hanukkah to mark the Maccabees’ victory over the Syrians and the rededication of their Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah lasts for eight days to commemorate the “miracle of the oil.” At the time of the rededication, there was only enough oil to light the eternal light for one day; the oil miraculously lasted eight days, long enough to travel and obtain more oil. The word Chanukah means “rededication.”

Every family has their own Hanukkah traditions. “My dog wears a sweater with a star of David on it,” Junior Mo Queirolo said.

Since Junior Ethan Daffner’s parents are divorced, he celebrates Hanukkah with his father and Christmas with his mother. “My dad puts his plastic Hanukkah bush on the table and surrounds it with ornaments,” Daffner said.

Other families celebrate in a more traditional way. “Every night, we light the candles and we play driedel at least once. We also eat special foods, like latkes,” said Freshman Rachel Louis, who teaches fifth and sixth grade Hebrew classes at Leesburg’s Sha’are Shalom synagogue.

Much like Christmas, the tradition of Hanukkah gift-giving varies between different families.
“We try to do one present per night, but usually end up giving them all on the first or last night,” said Queirolo.

Typical Hanukkah presents include money and clothing. “I got a bike as a kid, which was pretty awesome,” Daffner said.

Despite popular sentiment, Hanukkah is not the Jewish version of Christmas. “People think it’s bigger than it really is because it happens around the same time as Christmas and we get presents,” said Daffner.

“Hanukkah is not the most religious Jewish holiday,” said Louis. Many Jewish people consider Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah to be more important holy days. Where Christmas focuses on spirituality, Hanukkah celebrates historical events.

Hanukkah is like Christmas in that families create heartwarming, lifetime memories during both. “My most memorable Hanukkah was last year,” said Louis. “My mom surprised us when she brought home a kitten on the first night.” Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, began Saturday, December 8, at sundown.

The population of Western Loudoun can be described as predominantly caucasian and Christian. More diversity is found further east, closer to Washington, D.C., in location.

“Being Jewish is a major part of my identity,” said Queirolo.