Monday, December 3, 2007

Celebrating Hanukkah On Stage and Off

Posted by Bruce Miller

Hanukkah begins at sundown tomorrow, Dec 4. To all of our Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah is one of those holidays that falls on a different day each year. In 2008, Hanukkah will begin at sundown on Dec 21. In 2006, Hanukkah began on Dec 15.

Hanukkah is an eight day celebration that is also known as the Festival of Lights. It always begins on the 25th day of Kislev, the eighth or ninth month on the Jewish calendar, depending on the year. The Jewish calendar is based on both solar and lunar years, and so some years there’s a leap month preceding Kislev, just as in our standard calendar there is a leap day (Feb 29) every four years.

Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday in Jewish tradition. However, Hanukkah is also the Jewish holiday that occurs closest to Christmas. Therefore, in the United States, Hanukkah has gained added attention. This is appropriate perhaps because the Hanukkah story tells how Jewish culture has struggled to survive in a non-Jewish world.

In about 165 BC, the Greco-Syrian emperor Antiochus IV (pictured on the coin to the left) ruled over the Jews in Judea, the territory now known as Israel. He tried to force the Jewish people to accept Greek culture, making it unlawful for them to practice their own religion or study the Torah. Jewish fighters known as the Maccabees tried to protect their people from the Greek enforcers. After three years of fighting, the Maccabees (led by Judah Maccabee, pictured to the right) finally regained control over the temple on Mount Mariah in Jerusalem. While preparing the temple for rededication—the Hebrew word “Hanukkah” means “dedication”—they relit the temple lamp, but found only enough oil to keep it burning for one day. Miraculously, the lamp burned for eight days.

Interspersed with all the comic mayhem, Moonlight and Magnolias tells a more contemporary story about how Jewish culture has struggled to thrive despite its minority status in the United States. And so it’s not too far fetched to say that, while Moonlight and Magnolias may not be a “Christmas play,” it is, at least thematically, somewhat of a “Hanukkah play.”

When you visit the Barksdale Willow Lawn lobby, we hope you’ll make note of the Hanukkah display that shares the lobby stage with Barksdale’s traditional Christmas tree. Staff members solicited suggestions from our friends at the Weinstein Jewish Community Center regarding how best to include recognition of the Jewish faith in our lobby during the holiday season.

The Hanukkah display features an electric menorah (fire regulations prohibit using real candles) and two decorative Hanukkah platters on blue and white cloths. The central "servant candle" of the menorah has been lit since the opening of Moonlight and Magnolias. Beginning Dec 4, we will light one of the eight other candles of the menorah each day, until the eighth day of Hanukkah when all of the candles will be blazing.

We know you’ll enjoy the side-splitting comedy of Moonlight and Magnolias. We hope you’ll also appreciate the Hanukkah display that now graces our lobby, extending welcome to loyal theatergoers of all faiths.

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

Le Synge Bleu said...

Thank you for your beautiful efforts of inclusion in what is normally such a christmas dominated season! Its so heartwarming to see not only recognition of other faiths but such a wonderful respect for them. So you have my heartfelt thanks and you brought a huge smile to my face and a warmth in my heart for barksdale, where everyone has a seat at teh table.