Nanny Piggins tells the children the story of Hanukkah. She knows all about it because her distant cousin Naomi Piggins, who was a leading cake research scientist, and just happened to be in Jerusalem when the miracle of the oil lasting eight days occurred.
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‘The Story of Hannukah’ as told by Nanny Piggins
Nanny Piggins, Boris and the children were walking home from school. It was very late. They’d set out from school at the normal time – 3.30. But as they were walking past the local cricket pitch the sprinkler system had come on.
Nanny Piggins felt it was a crime to walk past any sprinkler system without running underneath the spray screaming with delight. So she and the children had done just this. All the neighbourhood children had joined them. And they’d had a wonderful time running around like idiots for the best part of an hour.
Then when the groundskeeper turned the sprinklers off and chased them all away. Since they were already wet, Nanny Piggins, Boris, Derrick, Samantha and Michael and all the neighbourhood children, went down to the creek to hunt for tadpoles.
They didn’t find any tadpoles but they did find some tremendous mud, which Nanny Piggins insisted that they all roll in because mud is so medicinal for the skin.
Even if you don’t have skin problems it will cure future skin problems. And none of the children wanted to grow up to be pimply teenagers so they all did as they were told and rolled around in the mud for another hour, and then just to be sociable they thew mud at each other for another half hour. Until their mothers turned up and told them off. The mothers were horrified by the mess. Which Nanny Piggins could understand. She didn’t enjoy mopping floors either.
Luckily the local fire chief owed her a favour. She had shot herself in through his upstairs bathroom window and saved his cat when his own house was on fire. So the fire chief brought a fire truck down to the creek and blasted all the children with his high powered hoses, and they all returned home spotlessly clean, if a little soggy.
And that is how Nanny Piggins and the children came to be walking the last few blocks home just as it was getting dark.
They were ambling along in contented silence, when Michael noticed something. One of the houses had a candle holder, with several lit candles in the window. It was unusual, because the candle stick had space for so many candles. Four on either side of one higher candle in the middle.
‘What’s that?’ asked Michael, pointing to the candles.
‘That’s a menorah,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘That’s a Jewish tradition. The eight candles of the menorah are lit over eight days to celebrate Hannukah.’
‘What’s Hannukah?’ asked Samantha.
‘Oh, that’s a long story,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Fortunately, I know all the details because one of my relatives was there at the time.’
‘Of course,’ said Derrick.
‘Will you tell us the story?’ asked Michael.
‘I would,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘But we’d need to get hold of ten dozen jam filled dough nuts first.’
‘We would?’ asked Michael.
‘Oh yes,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘You can’t talk about Hannukah without eating jam filled doughnuts. That would be wrong.’
It just so happened that there were only a block away from Hans bakery at this moment which gave Boris an idea.
‘Would you like me to break into Hans Bakery and borrow some doughnuts?’ asked Boris.
‘No need,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘I’ve got a key. Hans grew tired of me breaking in and damaging the locks, or windows, or chimney stacks. He says he’d prefer it if I just let myself in. He’s got Mr Green’s credit card number. So long as I leave a little note telling him what I’ve borrowed so he can deduct the appropriate amount from Mr Green’s account – Hans doesn’t mind at all.’
‘What a considerate business man,’ said Boris.
‘And so fifteen minutes later, they were sitting in their own living room, munching on jam filled doughnuts as Nanny Piggins told about the history of Hannukah.
‘It all began 2200 years ago in the ancient Middle Eastern Story days,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Actually, no, that’s not quite true. It actually really began 2350 years ago in the Ancient Greek story days.’
‘Ancient Greek?’ said Derrick. ‘What have they got to do with Hannukah?’
‘If you listen quietly for a few minutes I’ll explain,’ snapped Nanny Piggins. ‘2350 years ago there was a Greek king called Alexander the Great.’
‘Was he great?’ asked Michael.
‘He certainly thought so,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘And if winning wars and taking over other people’s countries makes you great than – indeed he was. Because Alexander conquered all the land from Greece to India.
‘What?’ said Derrick. ‘But there are so many countries between Greece and India! There’s the whole middle east for a start.’
‘Exactly,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘That was where the problem began. One man taking over all those different countries. The problem was made worse when Alexander the Great died.’
‘Oh dear,’ whimpered Boris.
‘It was probably for the best,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘He was only 32 when he died and he’d already taken over one and a half continents, if he’d lived into old age he would have taken over the entire planet and then had to invent space ships so he could take over other planets as well.’
Anyway, after he died, no one else was quite as good as conquering as him, so Alexander’s empire was split up to be ruled be various Greek Kings. There was a Greek King in Syria. There was a Greek king in Eygpt and of course, a Greek king in Greece.
And at the time, Judea, which was the homeland of the Jews at the time - was being run by the Syrian King who was really Greek, called Antiocchus the 3rd.
Antiochus wasn’t too bad. He allowed the Jewish people to keep their traditions and customs, and do what they liked in their own temple. But then one day Antiocchis the 3rd died.
‘Gosh no,’ said Boris. ‘I’ve only known about him for one minute and he seemed so nice.’
‘Boris, try to remember it happened 2300 years ago,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘You don’t need to be sad about it anymore.’
Boris just whimpered. He wasn’t good at compartmentalising his emotions. So Nanny Piggins continued on regardless.
After Antiochus the 3rd, Antiochus the 4th came to power and he was not so nice,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘In fact, some people called him – Antiochus the Madman!’
‘Oh dear,’ said Samantha.
‘Exactly,’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘Antiocchus the madman was really nasty,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘He declared war on Eygpt and marched across the dessert to attack them. But this made the Roman’s really annoyed…’
‘The Roman?!’ exclaimed Derrick. ‘I thought this was a story about the Jewish people.’
‘And the Ancient Greeks,’ added Michael.
‘It is,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘But the Romans were around then too. And they were the big powerful ones that everyone else had to listen to. They ordered Antiochus the madman to stop attacking Eygpt.
Being told what to do really really annoyed Antiocchus. But the Romans were too big and tough for him to fight. So he sulked the whole way home to Syria.
Now if you look on a map, the journey from Eygpt to Syria, took him straight through Judea. And since he couldn’t attack the Romans he decided to take his temper tantrum out on the Jewish people instead.
He attacked the city of Jerusalem, stole everything of value, killed thousands of Jewish people and totally wrecked their temple.
‘What a rotter!’ exclaimed Boris.
‘Indeed. Then Antiochus banned all the Jewish religious practises and customs,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Which is where my great great great great to 92 greats cousin Naomi Piggins comes in. You see, one traditional Jewish practise was - that they never ate pork or bacon or ham – no pig products.’
‘Good for them,’ said Boris.
‘Exactly,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘The pig population highly approved of this tradition.’
‘But when Antiocchus was trying to force the Jews to stop their traditions and take up Greek traditions – eating pork was one of the things he tried to force them to do.
‘And this is where Zeus gets involved,’ said Nanny Piggins.
Zeus?’ said Derrick. ‘Zeus was involved in the story of Hannukah.’
‘Not directly,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘He didn’t turn up in person. But the Greeks were just crazy for him.’
‘Why?’ asked Samantha. ‘Zeus did so many dreadful things.’
‘Yes, but he was very manly and charming about it,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘And the Ancient Greeks believed that Zeus was the king of the gods. So they wanted to stay on his good side.’
So Antiochus took the temple in Jerusalem from the Jews and rededicated it to Zeus. Zeus was the only god you could worship there. And to worship Zeus, Antiocchus ordered it that pigs be slaughtered on the alter.
‘That’s horrible!’ wailed Boris.
‘It was,’ agreed Nanny Piggins. ‘Imagine the poor butcher whose job it was to find a pig in Jerusalem. He was practically tearing his hair out. Because Jewish people didn’t eat pork, there weren’t many pigs in that neighbourhood.
There was only one pig he knew of – an incredibly glamorous and stunningly beautiful pig called – Naomi Piggins.
‘What was a Pig doing in Ancient Judea?’ asked Michael.
‘She was a clinical cake research scientist,’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘A what?’ asked Samantha.
‘A clinical cake research scientist,’ repeated Nanny Piggins. ‘You see back in the Ancient Story times chocolate had not been invented yet. And chocolate cake had not been invented either.
Which may go a long way to explaining why there were so many wars and conquerings. People must have been very grumpy.
So my dear cousin Naomi had devoted her life to finding a dessert that could enrich people’s lives by enriching the sugar content of their diet.’
‘What did she come up with?’ asked Michael.
‘Dates,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘They grew everywhere on palm trees in the Middle East. They’re tricky to pick because the trees are very tall and prickly. But Naomi was a Piggins, so an incredibly naturally talented athlete. She built a catapault, and fired herself at the top of a date tree, as she sailed through the air she would catch hold of the palm leaves, and then pick all the dates before dropping to the ground.’
‘Wow!’ said Michael.
‘Oh no, that wasn’t the wow bit,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘The truly impressiveabit was what she did next. She made these dates – which you must remember – were mere fruit - into a wonderful creation called – sticky date pudding.’
‘Oh, I’ve had that,’ said Michael.
‘Of course, you’ve had that!’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Everyone’s had that! It’s delicious. But imagining living in a world where no chocolate exists – then one day a stunningly-beautiful breathtakingly-athletic pig invents sticky date pudding. It was the greatest breakthrough in medical technology ever.’
‘Is a pudding really a breakthrough in medical technology?’ asked Derrick.
‘Back then the only medical technology was letting leaches suck your blood and burning feathers under your nose,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘So yes, it was better than any other medical technology prior to that point. In fact it’s a wonder she wasn’t awarded the Nobel Prize.’
‘The Nobel Prizes didn’t’ start until 1901,’ Derrick pointed out.
‘Well if they were such clever clogs at the Nobel Prizes they would invent a time machine and go back and give my cousin Naomi one,’ declared Nanny Piggins. ‘Because she definitely deserved one for inventing the sticky date pudding.’
‘The children decided it would be wise to change the subject because Nanny Piggins was getting emotional.
‘So what happened when the butcher went looking for Naomi?’ asked Samantha.
‘The butcher was a well meaning chap really,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘He explained the situation to Naomi and asked, very politely, if she would mind terribly being sacrificed on the alter as a tribute to Zeus.’
‘Naomi felt sorry for him, but not sorry enough to agree to that,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘She jumped in her catapult and fired herself at the city of Jerusalem.
‘She attacked the city?’ asked Michael.
‘No,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘She was just using the catapult as a means of transport. Naomi was just going to Jerusalem to give Antiochus the Madman a piece of her mind.
She was just walking down the main street of Jerusalem thinking up some really cutting things to say, and planning how hard she was going to stomp on Antiocchus’ foot. When a band of rebel fighters turned the corner and started walking with her.
‘Oh hello,’ said Naomi Piggins. ‘My name is Naomi Piggins. Where are you off to?’
‘We’re the Maccabees,’ said the rebel fighters. ‘We’re going in to town to whallop Antiochus’ army and make them all go home to Syria.’
‘That sounds splendid,’ said Naomi Piggins. ‘Do you mind if I join you?’
‘Not at all,’ said the Maccabees.
‘And that’s just what they did. The Maccabees fought long and hard. They over powered the much stronger Syrian army and drove them out of Judea.
And then they reclaimed their temple. When the Maccabees saw what Antiochus had done to the temple they were very upset. There were Zeus posters up everywhere, the alter had been totally ruined and all the sacred oil that was used to light the menorah in the temple had been spoiled.
When they cleaned up the temple they found only one bottle of sacred oil that was still in tact, with the seal of their holy priest.
This was awful. They really wanted to get the Temple back to how it should be, but there was only enough oil for one day, and it would take eight days to pick olives, press them to make more oil.
But the Maccabees were very optimistic people, they’d been eating a lot of Naomi Piggins sticky date pudding. And a dessert that sugary does give one glass half full attitude. So they decided to light the menorah and hope for the best.
And that is what they did. They poured in the oil and lit the Menorah. And that is when a miracle occurred. The one day’s worth of oil, lasted all eight days until more oil could be made and blessed.
After all the dreadful things that had happened to their people and their city – this miracle filled the Jewish people with gratitude and hope. And they commemorate that miracle to this day by Celebrating Hannukah and lighting a candle every day for eight days.
‘So why are we eating doughnuts?’ asked Derrick.
‘That’s because of Naomi Piggins second great medical breakthrough,’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘Did this one involve medicine?’ asked Samantha.
‘No, better than that,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘This one involved doughnuts. Naomi Piggins invented the jam filled doughnut.
‘You see once the Maccabees pressed the olives and made olive oil for the Menorah. There was lots of oil left over and that got Naomi’s creative dessert brain thinking. What if instead of baking a cake – you fried a cake – and what if instead of making a regular cake – you fried a jam filled cake. And so she invented the sufganiyah or as we call it – the jam filled doughnut. Part of the celebration of Hannukah is all about eating fried foods.
‘That’s lovely,’ said Boris.
‘And that is the story of Hannukah,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘The end. Time for Bed.’