Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday celebrated around the world. It commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. While traditionally observed by lighting a menorah and eating oil-based foods like latkes and sufganiyot, the festival of Hanukkah is celebrated in different ways in different places.
To understand how Hanukkah began, we need to first understand the historical context of the time. During the mid-2nd century BCE, the Seleucid Empire — an empire that stretched from modern-day Turkey to the borders of China — laid claim to Palestine, and Jewish practices and customs were outlawed or heavily suppressed. In response to this oppression, a small but determined Jewish army rose up against the foreign occupants and succeeded in recapturing Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. This event is known as the Maccabean Revolt, and is the centerpiece of the Hanukkah celebration.
In the Hanukkah story, the Maccabees were victorious when they reclaimed the temple. They found, however, that all the sacred olive oil had been destroyed, so they set about to prepare a fresh portion. Miraculously, the limited amount of oil that they had managed to find lasted for eight days, until a fresh supply was prepared. As a result, the holiday of Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and nights, to commemorate the miracle of the oil.
Today, Jewish people from around the world come together to celebrate the joyous holiday of Hanukkah, which is celebrated with meaningful activities, customs, and traditions that have been passed down through the ages. One tradition is the lighting of the Menorah — a candelabrum consisting of eight branches and a ninth, serving candle, known as the shamash — every night for the 8 days of the holiday. Participating in this special ceremony serves as a reminder of the miraculous events which allowed the Jewish people to secure their freedom.
Families gather together to exchange gifts and share in delicious oil-based foods like latkes and sufganiyot — spongy doughnuts soaked in honey or jam — both classic Hanukkah treats. Playing the traditional game of dreidel is also a favoured activity, where players gamble for Hanukkah gelt — traditional Hanukkah money.
No matter which customs are being followed, Hanukkah is a celebration of freedom and the human spirit, and it’s a time for Jewish people around the world to come together in celebration of the resilience of their ancestors. Hanukkah is a holiday that will live on in Jewish culture and tradition for generations to come.
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Last update 2023-11-26. Price and product availability may change.