Happy Chanukah at sundown tonight!

I just wanted to wish those celebrating Chanukah, a joyful holiday. I thought I would share the history of the holiday as many people don’t know all the details.

I have been making potato latkes for days now, about 150 total ! Potato latkes are made as a treat for this holiday as you cook them in oil, the oil representing the significance of Chanukah.  

Long ago in the land of Judea there was a Syrian king, Antiochus. The king ordered the Jewish people to reject their G-d, their religion, their customs and their beliefs and to worship the Greek gods. There were some who did as they were told, but many refused. One who refused was Judah Maccabee.

Judah and his four brothers formed an army and chose as their name the word “Maccabee”, which means hammer. After three years of fighting, the Maccabees were finally successful in driving the Syrians out of Israel and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees wanted to clean the building and to remove the hated Greek symbols and statues. On the 25th day of the month of Kislev, the job was finished and the temple was rededicated.

When Judah and his followers finished cleaning the temple, they wanted to light the eternal light, known as the N’er Tamid, which is present in every Jewish house of worship. Once lit, the oil lamp should never be extinguished.

Only a tiny jug of oil was found with only enough for a single day. The oil lamp was filled and lit. Then a miracle occurred as the tiny amount of oil stayed lit not for one day, but for eight days.

Happy Winter Solstice: The Shortest Day

Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year or the longest night of the year, depending on your perspective. The solstice also marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. 

The Winter Solstice Celebration goes back thousands of years in many different cultures. It was a special celebration of the Druids and Celts and centered on the yule log as part of pagan rituals. In ancient Rome, it was known as the Feast of Saturnalia.

Often, in ancient days, Winter Solstice marked a time of dread. Winter was harder on people in those days because of food shortages, long periods of darkness, illness, and cold. No flick of the switch or turning up the furnace. Those who were lucky lived through the hard winters.

Today we are more fortunate. Winter time marks more colds and flu, rain, snow, sleet and other nasty weather. Winter also can bring on SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder which can cause depression and general malaise in some people. Most of the time, however, these conditions are not life-threatening to modern man.

The good news about Winter Solstice is that the days will now get longer, at least until June 21 or whatever date the Summer Solstice falls on. This year, the shortest day of the year will have only 9 hours 27 minutes of daylight between sun up and sun down, in Manassas. To calculate this for yourself, you can go to the Naval Observatory website and find most locations.

Many people love winter time and say they would miss the seasons if they moved to Florida or Hawaii. Others hate it. How do you feel about this much maligned season? Is it as bad as people say?  Is it deadly to the poor?  How about in the Dakotas and other northern plains areas?


For 25 years the Paul Winter Winter Solstice has been celebrated in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Enjoy some scenes from this winter extravaganza. Winter Solstice is not just for pagans any more!