Hanukkah is the festival of lights celebrated for eight days and nights beginning on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev. Every year, millions of Jews all over the world celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.
The Story of the Miracle of Hanukkah
The story of Hanukkah is one of defiance against religious persecution and oppression. In 167 B.C.E., the Syrian-Greeks invaded the land of Israel and, under the rule of the Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, began to persecute the Jews. When the temple in Jerusalem was desecrated and traditional Jewish religious ideas were banned, a group of Jewish rebels known as the Maccabees led an uprising against the Syrian-Greeks and miraculously drove them out of the land of Israel.
Rededicating the Temple
Once the Syrian-Greeks were forced to retreat, the Maccabees entered the Temple in Jerusalem in order to rededicate it to God. But, when they opened the temple’s menorah – the sacred lamp that holds seven wicks – they found only a small flask of pure, undefiled olive oil. According to the Book of Maccabees, this flask of oil was enough to light the menorah for one day. But amazingly, the burning of this pure oil lasted for eight days – the exact amount of time it took to create a new batch of undefiled oil.
Celebrating Liberation and the Miracle of the Oil
On the 25th day Kislev, which corresponds to the month of December, Jews around the world celebrate the victory of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil. Kids gather around the light of the Hanukkah menorah to sing songs, and families eat traditional Hanukkah foods such as latkes – potato pancakes – and sufganiyot – doughnuts – that are fried in oil to remind them of the miracle of the oil. During Hanukkah, Jews play a spinning game that goes back centuries called dreidel, in which each player spins a four-sided top inscribed with the letters nun, gimel, heh, and shin.
Hanukkah is not only a time to remember the miracle of the oil, but also a reminder to all Jews that they can prevail over religious persecution and overcome difficult odds. In fact, the name “Hanukkah” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “dedication” – a dedication to Jewish faith, culture, and community that has been passed down for generations. Whether or not people understand the history behind the holiday, anyone who visits a synagogue or Jewish home during Hanukkah is sure to feel the joy and celebration in the air.
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Last update 2023-11-21. Price and product availability may change.