BANGOR, Maine — Jews around the state next week will celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.
The holiday begins at sundown Sunday and ends at sundown Dec. 29.
The annual Hanukkah party at the Blaine House, the Augusta home of Maine’s governors, will be held at 4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 22. It’s a custom begun in 1994 by former first lady Mary Herman and her husband, then-Gov. Angus King,
Gov. John Baldacci and first lady Karen Baldacci will be hosts for the event, which draws Jews from all over the state to the governor’s mansion.
Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem by Judas Maccabee in 165 B.C. after the temple had been destroyed by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, king of Syria. The oil found in the temple should have lasted just one day but miraculously burned for eight.
The menorah, lit on successive days, re-enacts the miracle.
It is a minor religious holiday but its December celebration has given it more significance as a cultural tradition, especially in Western countries, where Christmas and all its religious and secular trappings dominate public and private activities.
The first Hanukkah gifts were in the form of coins, nuts or sweets that families in Eastern Europe used hundreds of years ago as they played with the dreidel. Spinning the dreidel, or top, is a popular Hanukkah game, in which each player takes turns trying to acquire the treats heaped in the kitty.
Synagogues in Bangor and Rockland will hold the following celebrations:
• Beth Israel, 144 York St., Bangor, 4-6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21, 945-3433.
• Beth El, 183 French St., Bangor, 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21, 945-4578.
• Adas Yoshuron, 50 Willow St., Rockland, 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 28, 594-4523.