Hanukkah, the annual Jewish festival of lights, is said to have originated from the delayed celebration of the holiday of Sukkot. This occurs when the events of the Maccabean revolt, which took place in the 2nd century BCE, are taken into account. The Maccabees were a band of Jewish fighters who rose up against the oppressive Greek-Syrian rulers of the time. During their fight, they reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and in so doing, returned religious freedom to their people. The Maccabees then proceeded to rededicate the temple with a celebration that was to become the first Hanukkah, which was a delayed celebration of Sukkot.
Sukkot is also known as the Festival of Booths and is a seven-day period where Jews build makeshift dwellings called ‘sukkahs’. The holiday celebrates the harvest and remembers the 40 years the Jewish people spent living in the wilderness. It is believed that the first Hanukkah was a delayed celebration of Sukkot because it was a time when the Jewish people could finally freely practice their faith.
During Sukkot, people used to take the fruit of their labour and travel en masse to Jerusalem in a procession called the ‘Hakhel’. At Hazkel, leading rabbis would read the Torah in front of the people gathered. However, during the Maccabean revolt this was no longer possible as the Greek-Syrian rulers had outlawed it.
Once the Jewish people had regained their freedom, it is thought that the delayed celebration of Sukkot took the form of Hanukkah. Many of the traditions associated with Sukkot were adopted into the Hanukkah celebrations, such as kindling a candle for each day of Hanukkah and the eating of “Latkes” which are potato pancakes that represent the produce of the season.
The Maccabean revolt is celebrated each year by Hanukkah, the eight-day festival which has become a major holiday in Jewish religious practice and culture. Many people around the world now join in on the festivities by decorating their homes, exchanging gifts, and spinning the four-sided “dreidel” top. Hanukkah is a joyful reminder that religious freedom is possible, even when the odds look insurmountable.
The connection between Hanukkah and Sukkot remains to this day and is a valuable reminder of how faith and perseverance can lead to triumph over adversity. The first Hanukkah may have been a delayed celebration of Sukkot but it has proven to be a lasting and important part of our history and cultural legacy.
Hanukkah continues to bring joy to families and communities each year, and we can always be thankful for the courage of the Maccabees and the fact that we are still able to celebrate Sukkot and its traditions, albeit in a slightly different form.
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Last update 2023-11-22. Price and product availability may change.