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Blog 12.21.2020

Literary Quotations About Hanukkah And Kwanzaa


Hanukkah (or “Chanukah”) is an eight-day Jewish celebration also known as “The Festival of Lights” and is based on, according to the religious text, the Talmud, a miraculous event. During the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem during the second century B.C., the menorah’s candles burned for eight days instead of one.

Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) was a nineteenth-century American author who shared some beautiful literary wisdom about the Jewish holiday:

“Still ours the dance, the feast, the glorious psalm; the mystic lights of emblem, and the word.” — Emma Lazarus

Charles Reznikoff (1894-1946) was an American poet known for his contributions to Jewish literature and Yiddish poetry. He wrote of Hanukkah, its sacred meaning and what one should take away from the holiday:

“The miracle, of course, was not that the oil for the sacred light — in a little cruse — lasted as long as they say; but that the courage of the Maccabees lasted to this day: let that nourish my flickering spirit.” — Charles Reznikoff

Side Note: (The Maccabees were an ancient group of Jewish warriors who took over Judea and founded the Hasmonean Dynasty, 167 BCE to 37 BCE.)

For more information as well as children’s books to read on and around Hanukkah, consult these websites:

Kwanzaa is an African holiday that, in Swahili, means “first fruits.” The holiday is based on seven principles called the “Nguzo Saba” and is celebrated by lighting one of seven candles each night for seven nights. Just as the Jewish candle holder or “menorah” is used during Hanukkah, the “kinara” is used for holding candles during Kwanzaa. There is a feast that is held on December 31st called a “karamu” and the tapestry/mat used during the traditional feast is called a “Mkeka” and is one of the seven principles of the holiday.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)—one of the greatest African American poets and writers the literary world has ever known—wrote extensively about Africa and her travels there. One of her most beautiful quotations that highlight the importance of Kwanzaa details the tapestry of life as well as the one used during the holiday (the black, green, and red mkeka).

“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” -Maya Angelou

Dr. Angelou also wrote of Africa and its cultural and historical importance:

For Africa to me… is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place. – Maya Angelou

For more information on the writers as well as the holidays mentioned in this blog, consult the websites listed below:

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