Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration that commemorates a crucial event in Jewish history. The holiday celebrates the Maccabees’ successful military campaign against the oppressive Seleucid Greek rulers in the 2nd century BCE and the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The rededication took place after the Jews of Jerusalem had found only enough sacred oil to light the Temple menorah for one day, yet miraculously the one-day supply lasted for eight days.
History of Hanukkah
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday originating in ancient times, and it is celebrated in modern Israel and around the world today. The story behind the festival centers on the liberation of the Jews from oppression and occupation by more powerful forces in the 2nd century BCE. After the Jews of Jerusalem were defeated by Syrian Greek forces, a small group of family and friends known as the Maccabees recaptured Jerusalem and its Holy Temple. They set about to cleanse and rededicate the Temple but found only enough sacred oil to keep the menorah lighted for one day. Miraculously, the one-day supply lasted for eight days, giving time for more oil to be prepared. This miracle is celebrated during Hanukkah, which literally means “dedication” in Hebrew.
Symbols of Hanukkah
Hanukkah is celebrated with a number of rituals and symbols that are uniquely Jewish. The symbols of Hanukkah that are so familiar to Jews today include the menorah, the shamash (the special candle used to light the others), dreidels (a four-sided spinning top used in games of luck), and gifts of money and food.
The main ritual of Hanukkah is the lighting of the menorah, wherein one new candle is lit each night for eight nights. On the evening of the first day, only one candle is lit, while on the eighth night all eight candles are burning. Other common elements of the festival include gift-giving, celebratory meals with friends and family, and games of dreidel.
Hanukkah is a celebration of freedom and faith that affirms the Jewish people’s belief in the power of miracles. Through the lighting of the menorah, Jews commemorate the great victory of the Maccabees against oppressive forces and remember the miracles of the oil and other signs of God’s hand in their lives. The smiling faces of children playing with dreidels and the joy of gathering with family for a meal of latkes and other treats are also a reminder of Hanukkah’s timeless message of hope and celebration.
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Last update 2023-11-22. Price and product availability may change.