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'Part of our identity': How Hanukkah is being celebrated in Winnipeg

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Thursday night marked the beginning of Hanukkah – a Jewish holiday that celebrates the triumph of light over dark.

Rabbi Anibal Mass of the Congregation Shaarey Zedek explained that the holiday is a remembrance of two miracles in the 2nd century BCE.

The first miracle was when a group of Jewish people defeated their oppressors. They then went on to experience a second miracle when they went to reclaim and rededicate their temple, and a small amount of oil, which was only enough for one day, lasted through eight.

“We celebrate Hanukkah because we are Jewish,” Mass said.

“It is something that is part of our identity, a part of our culture.”

During the eight-day holiday, the Jewish community takes part in several traditions, including lighting the menorah, playing with dreidels, and saying the Hanukkah blessings.

It’s also a time to enjoy special treats including latkes and jelly donuts.

“The theme of Hanukkah, of course, is the miracle of the oil and the oil is reflected in our favourite Hanukkah foods,” said Cantor Leslie Emery with Congregation Shaareey Zedek.

To mark the celebration of Hanukkah, a menorah lighting ceremony took place at the Manitoba Legislative Building on Thursday.

Leaders in the community say the idea of the menorah – a symbol of light and hope -- takes on an additional meaning this year.

“Hanukkah is unique among Jewish holidays. Unfortunately, Jews have a long history of persecution, oppression, difficulties,” said Rabbi Avrohom Altein with the Chabad-Lubavitch of Winnipeg.

“We’ve survived it all, miraculously, for thousands of years. But this holiday does not just celebrate freedom from physical oppression, it celebrates [freedom from] spiritual oppression.”

The final day of Hanukkah is on Dec. 15.

- With files from CTV’s Joseph Bernacki.

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