Hanukkah is a Jewish festival celebrated every year to commemorate the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. This 8-day holiday, lasting from the 25th of Kislev to the 3rd of Tevet, typically takes place in December in the Gregorian calendar and symbolizes the victory of the Maccabees over the armies of Antiochus, protecting the sanctity of the temple and establishing Jewish religious freedom. The primary ritual of the holiday is the lighting of the menorah – a 9-branch candelabra that represents the eternal light of the temple.
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Lighting the Menorah
The lighting of the menorah is a fundamental tradition of Hanukkah and is typically done each night during the holiday. The menorah holds eight candles, one for each day of the festival. All together, they represent the nine flames which miraculously lasted for eight days on a single cruse of oil when the Maccabees prepared to re-light the temple. An additional candle, the shamash, is used to light the others.
The Order of Lighting
The Shamash is lit first, then moved to light each candle of the menorah, beginning with the far right and moving leftward. On the very first night, the Shamash is lit first, followed by the first candle, and it follows this same sequence until the second to last night when all eight candles are lit. On the 8th and final night, all candles are lit.
Presents and Gelt
Children are given presents and candy throughout the week to celebrate the holiday. It is common for family members to give gifts on each of the 8 nights or give a single gift on the first night while exchanging small goods on subsequent nights. Children are also traditionally given coins (gelt) to be used as a reward for playing dreidel.
Many families celebrate Hanukkah with festive meals. Aside from traditional dishes such as potato latkes and doughnuts, roasted or stewed meats are also served. Songs and stories of the holiday are often shared while around the table.
Hanukkah is an important holiday that serves as a reminder of the Jewish people’s struggle for freedom. Celebrated with a series of rituals and customs, the 8-day festival brings family and friends together to remember the legacy of the Maccabees and to share in the light of the Jews’ unwavering faith. From the lighting of the menorah and the singing of traditional songs to the exchanging of gifts and cards, it is a holiday of rich customs and traditions which will remain alive in the hearts of the Jewish people.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.