HOLDEN, Mass. — At the bandstand in the center of town, members of the community came together to light the first candle on the menorah Tuesday night, officially beginning the celebration of Hanukkah in Holden.
Under the twinkling lights, a diverse group of locals joined in on the singing of traditional Hanukah songs, shared some coffee and doughnuts, and reflected on the meaning of the important Jewish holiday.
"Hanukkah is almost synonymous with V.E. Day or V.J. Day, as it celebrates a victory," explained Allen Rubin, who explained that it differs from the more solemn holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
"The story goes back to Biblical Judea, way before Israel," he continued. "At that time, Judea was overrun and captured by an Assyrian king named Antiochus — he was a very cruel king, who tormented and murdered the Jews. The worst thing that he did was defile the temple by bringing a pig into the temple and slaughtering it."
Yet a young man named Judas Macabeus enlisted a militia that called themselves the Maccabees, and they defeated Antiochus.
"However, they were ensconced in the temple, and it only had so much oil," said Rubin. "They only had one days oil, and as we know know, the ner tamid, or the eternal light, had to burn continuously. But miraculously it burned for eight days. That's why we have the eight candles."
Today, that victory continues to be celebrated every year with Hanukkah, and for the past six years the Holden community has been able to come together at the bandstand to mark the beginning of the holiday and reflect on the same key themes of hope, renewal, freedom, and the overthrowing of tyranny.
The placement of the menorah at the bandstand was spearheaded by Holden resident Jennifer Lish Lebeaux, who six years ago thought there should be some decoration for Hanukkah in town.
"So I collected donations from private individuals, and I told the selectmen I was going to put a menorah up on the public land, and they actually ended up letting me donate the menorah to the Town of Holden — so this is now the official town menorah."
Every year since, families have gathered on one of the nights of Hanukkah to commemorate the holiday, and Tuesday night had the biggest showing ever as a crowd filled the bandstand.
"It's a celebration of freedom, and as things are difficult, people sometimes pull together, and that's wonderful to see," said Michael Lebeaux. "It's a hopeful sign."