Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated around the world and is an eight-day festival of rededication that occurs in late November or December. It is also known as the Festival of Lights and commemorates the Maccabees’ revolt against the Syrian-Greeks in the second century BC. The holiday focuses on the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and marks the freedom of Jews from foreign oppression.
What Exactly Is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday which has been celebrated for over 2,000 years. It is otherwise known as the ‘Festival of Lights’, and it commemorates the successful revolt of the Maccabees against the Syrian-Greek army in the 2nd century BC.
The story of Hanukkah began when a Greek-Syrian empire attempted to force Jews to deny their beliefs and practice- by banning celebration of religious festivals, circumcising babies and owning customs. Refusing to comply, Jews lead by Judas Maccabaeus, rose up against the Syrian-Greeks and won their freedom in a series of battles in the region known as Judea.
When the Maccabees arrived at the temple in Jerusalem they were horrified to find all their worship tools had been destroyed and defiled. As a result, they chose to rededicate the temple to Jewish worship. This was done by cleaning the area, rebuilding the altar and providing enough oil to keep the eternal flame burning for eight days.
Traditions of Hanukkah
Hanukkah is traditionally celebrated with several activities for the eight nights of festivities. On each night of the holiday, households typically light a special menorah (nine-branched candelabra) with eight branches. One candle is lit on the first night and on each successive night an additional one is added, until all eight candles are lit at once on the eighth day.
On each night of Hanukkah the appropriate blessing is given and songs are sung. The latkes (potato pancakes) are usually eaten on the first night. Other Hanukkah foods include sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts), and applesauce and sour cream known as levivot. Also on Hanukkah, presents, coins called ‘Hanukkah gelt’, are given to children and games like dreidel or spinning top are played with Nes Gadol hayah sham, a Hebrew phrase meaning “A great miracle happened here”.
Over centuries, Hanukkah has come to symbolise something greater than a celebration of liberty and spiritual freedom- for Jews, it has come to represent resilience, persistence and hope. During Hanukkah people come together to reflect on the strength of communities and reinforces, even today, the idea of religious freedom.
Hanukkah is more than just gambling with dreidels, eating doughnuts and lighting menorahs. It’s a time of hope, of endurance and ultimately of joy and inspiration.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.