The rain stopped long enough for 250 celebrants to enjoy the first night of Hanukkah at Lynnwood City Hall Sunday night.
This was the 10th year that the Chabad Jewish Center of Snohomish County held a Menorah Lighting ceremony.
People of all ages and backgrounds sang traditional Jewish songs, such as “Blessings for Menorah Kindling,” “Maoz Tzur,” and the all-time favorite, “I Have a Little Dreidel.”
The Seattle-based Klez Katz Klezmer Band provided lively traditional music, which stirred people to clap, tap their feet, and sing along.
The Lynnwood Food Bank provided snack bars and oranges, which were gladly accepted by visitors. As for me, I had something else in my mind: “I’m looking for the latkes!” I said to helpers. Sadly, they said there were none of the fried potato pancakes this year, but there were plenty of donuts. “All kosher!” exclaimed Rabbi Berel Paltiel. (He squeezes that phrase in every year, and every year people laugh.) Other gifts included chocolate coins (“gelt”), toy dreidels, and menorahs.
Although I am not of the Jewish faith, I look forward to coming to this event each year. I see the familiar faces who welcome me with, “It’s nice to see you again, my friend! How have you been?” And the message of Hanukkah applies to everyone during these bleak, dark days of winter. “Every night on Hanukkah we light our menorah, and that little flame tells us a story,” Rabbi Paltiel said. “Hanukkah is the most well-known and well-observed Jewish tradition here in America. And what’s amazing is that Hanukkah is actually not a celebration of survival. The story goes like this if you want a crash course in Jewish holidays: ‘They tried to kill us, they couldn’t kill us, so we eat!’
“But Hanukkah is actually an exception to that. They didn’t try to kill us. They didn’t try to chase us out of their land. All they tried to do is rob us of our souls.
“And that’s perhaps why Hanukkah resonates with us today, because — especially over the last two years when we’ve gone through the challenges collectively as we all did — we all understand that we have to nourish our souls…Find the inner happiness.
“And that’s the message of the flame. What we hear the flame tell us is: ‘Your life matters.’ God put you in this world for a purpose and only you can fulfill it. No one else can do it, and therefore you are important. What is a greater reason to celebrate than knowing that your life is valuable and meaningful? And that’s the message of the menorah. We celebrate our spirit, we celebrate our soul, we celebrate our purpose in this world. And that’s why it resonates with all of us. And of course, a couple of jelly donuts can’t hurt, either.”
Lynnwood Mayor-Elect Christine Frizzell said, “Thank you for bringing the Festival of Lights to our community. Including all members of our community is a wonderful example of celebrating all of our religious freedoms. And it’s in celebrating the different things that we value that we find how much we really have in common. So may 2022 be a year filled with light, love and joy.”
Also in attendance were Lynnwood Police Chief Jim Nelson, City Councilmembers Julieta Altamirano-Crosby and George Hurst, and Edmonds School Board Director Deborah Kilgore.
Hanukkah is the annual Jewish Festival of Lights, lasting eight days. Each night, a candle is lit on the menorah, representing the eight nights a very limited amount of oil lasted miraculously for the Jewish people in fighting the Greek army in 165 BC.
People also celebrate by exchanging gifts, playing with dreidels, singing traditional Hanukkah songs, and eating jelly-filled donuts, latkes (potato cakes), and chocolate gelt (coins).
— Story and photos by David Carlos