Every year, Hanukkah marks the eight-day celebration of the rededication of the Second Temple established by the Maccabees. But the date on which this joyous event occurs is not always the same. So how is the date determined? What determines when Hanukkah starts?
Hanukkah is always held according to the Hebrew calendar, which is a lunar calendar based on both sun and moon cycles. This calendar is significantly different from the solar calendar year that is commonly used in the western world, giving Hanukkah a variable date from year to year. According to the Hebrew calendar, a year can range from 354 days (deficient) to 383 days (perfect) and 385 days (super perfect). It is made up of 12 months of alternating 29 and 30 days, with an additional month inserted seven times every 19 years to account for the discrepancy between the lunar and solar years.
The Jewish New Year starts on Rosh Hashanah which is calculated by multiple factors including the barley and moon cycles. This allows the types of events throughout the year to stay in their designated months. It also allows us to keep track of when Passover, Shavout, and Sukkot should occur, as well as of course Hanukkah. This is why Hanukkah can normally fall out between late November and late December.
The Jewish calendar observed in the city of Jerusalem is mainly used to calculate the Hanukkah date. This means that when it comes to ascertaining the specific start date of the eight-day celebration, the calculation completely changes from one region to another.
Due to the difference between the Solar and Hebrew calendar, there is a difference of several days between the Hebrew and Gregorian models. This is due to the fact that the Hebrew calendar typically has 354 days, while the Gregorian year typically has 365 or even 366 days in a leap year. This means that the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah moves accordingly, with the Gregorian date shifting from year to year.
To sum up, the main factor that determines when Hanukkah starts is the Hebrew calendar. It is based on both a lunar and grand cycle that take into consideration the position of the moon and the amount of days in a year. This explains why the exact date of Hanukkah changes annually, as it is inextricably tied to the lunar calendar. Hanukkah is celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar, so it usually falls out between late November and late December on the Gregorian calendar.
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Last update 2023-11-24. Price and product availability may change.