Hanukkah is a beloved Jewish holiday, which has been celebrated for more than two millennia. While traditionally associated with the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem, it has come to represent a celebration of resiliency and freedom. The name “Hanukkah” itself reflects these values, as the name translates to “dedication” or “renewal” in Hebrew.
Hanukkah is a holiday of special significance to the Jewish people, as it commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian-Greek oppressor Antiochus IV. After their victory, the Maccabees rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem and lit a menorah in the Temple to commemorate the event. When the Maccabees lit the menorah, they only had enough oil to last for one night; miraculously, the oil continued to burn for eight days and eight nights – thus beginning the modern Hanukkah tradition.
The name “Hanukkah” originates from the Hebrew verb “to dedicate,” as it is in reference to the rededication of the Temple. The Hebrew spelling of the holiday is חֲנֻכָּה, which translates into English as “dedication.” Interestingly, the word Hanukkah can also be broken down to its two root words – “h’nuch” and “kah” – which translate into “miracle” and “25,” respectively. The numerical reference is in reference to the 25th day of the month of Kislev, on which the miracle of the lighting of the menorah occurred. In addition, the name Hanukkah is sometimes translated as “The Festival of Lights.”
The traditional celebration of Hanukkah focuses on the Miracle of the Oil. During Hanukkah, it is customary to light a special menorah known as a “hanukiah” with nine branches or candles – seven because seven is a holy number in Judaism and an additional one called the shamas. Each night of Hanukkah, one additional candle is added in succession until the last night, when all eight candles are lit simultaneously. On each night of the holiday, Jews also light a blessing candle, which is most commonly the tallest option alongside the menorah.
Other symbolic Hanukkah activities also focus on the miracle of the oil. Families traditionally eat fried items such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) for Hanukkah, as these items signify the miracle of the oil and the lighting of the menorah. Spin-the-dreidel is also a popular activity during Hanukkah, as dreidels are beautifully decorated symbols of the holiday that represent four Hebrew letters. The four letters, which stand for “a great miracle happened here,” express the Jewish people’s gratitude towards the miracle of the oil and the holiday of Hanukkah.
The name Hanukkah is a beautiful reflection of the values it represents. This holiday is a celebration of freedom and miracles that have shaped the Jewish people’s yearning for freedom. The traditional meaning of Hanukkah, “dedication,” is deeply symbolic of the Jewish people’s commitment to their faith and to each other. When we celebrate Hanukkah today, we honor ancient miracles and the resilience of a people.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.