Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day celebration that is celebrated by Jewish people around the world. It is a joyous occasion that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the year 165 BCE. As such, it is a major Jewish holiday and is celebrated with a number of exciting religious ceremonies, activities, and feasts. But when exactly is Hanukkah?
According to the common Jewish civil and religious calendar, the dates of Hanukkah vary from year to year. The holiday begins on the 25th of Kislev, which is usually the ‘third’ month in the Jewish calendar. Depending on the Gregorian calendar, this generally falls sometime during November or December. The celebration extends for eight full days, concluding on the second of Tevet, which is the ‘fourth’ month in the Jewish civil year.
Determining the Date of Hanukkah
The traditional way to determine the date of Hanukkah is to use the Lunisolar calendar (calendar which reconciles the motions of the sun and moon). Much like the Gregorian calendar, the Lunisolar calendar is made up of solar years, but it also incorporates an additional hidden month every few years to ensure that the Festival of Lights actually occurs during the “proper” season – in the winter time.
Molad-Based Calculations for Determining Hanukkah Dates
Most Jews today, however, determine the dates of major holidays according to the Molad-based calculations, which were actually formalized in the year 1190 CE by Maimonides. Molad is a Hebrew word which refers to the new moon, and a Molad-based calculation is a type of astronomical formula which helps to determine the proper dates of rabbinical observances. According to this calculation, Hanukkah is observed on the 25th of Kislev, as mentioned above.
Since Hanukkah lasts for 8 full days, the holiday actually continues until the second day of Tevet. On that day, Jews will typically have a festive evening meal. Following the meal, they will light a special ninth candle, which is known as the Shamash.
Modern Hanukkah Celebrations
Modern Hanukkah celebrations tend to be more playful and secular than traditional observances. There are a number of fun activities associated with the holiday, such as playing the dreidel game and exchanging gelt (coins).
On the first night of Hanukkah, and on each night thereafter, Jews will gather around a menorah (special candelabra) and recite prayers, hymns, and psalms. The menorah is lit from right to left, with the Shamash being the helper or “servant” candle. While the first candle is lit with the blessing “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah lights”, subsequent candles are lit with the same words with the exception of the words “…who has commanded us”.
The proper date for Hanukkah will vary from year to year, but it is a special and important festival in the Jewish faith, celebrated with joy and enthusiasm.
In summary, Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish celebration commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the year 165 BCE. It is usually celebrated sometime during November or December, and the exact date is determined using a Lunisolar calendar and Molad-based calculations. Various religious ceremonies, activities, and feasts are enacted as part of the celebration, as well as more secular games and gift-giving. Hanukkah is a time of joy and celebration for Jews, and is a major holiday in the Jewish calendar.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.