Hanukkah, or Chanukah, is an eight day Jewish Festival of Lights celebrated in December or late November depending on the Hebrew calendar. It is a joyous holiday that commemorates the events chronicled in the books of the Maccabees, specifically the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. The holiday traditionally features the lighting of the eight candles of the Menorah and singing ‘Maoz Tzur’ – a traditional Hanukkah song.
The History of Hanukkah
Hanukkah is based on events in ancient Judea, as chronicled in the Books of the Maccabees. In the 2nd century BC, the Syrians controlled Judea and sought to impose their culture and religion upon the Judeans. However, a group of Judeans, the Maccabees, rebelled against them and their campaign was successful.
The Miracle of Hanukkah
The Maccabees then sought to rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem, which the Syrians had defiled by installing a huge idol. As part of this rededication ceremony, the Temple required anointing with a special rite. The Maccabees only had enough consecrated oil to last one day; nevertheless, miraculously, the oil burned for eight days.
To commemorate this miracle of the small amount of oil, many Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days and light a special nine-branched Menorah, or Hanukiah, each night, with one candle lit on the first night, two on the second, etc., until, by the eighth night, all eight candles are burning. On the ninth branch of the Hanukiah, there is a shamash, or ‘servant’ candle, which is used to light the others.
On each night of Chanukah, blessings are recited over the candles, and a festive meal is enjoyed. Many also play traditional games such as dradle and exchange presents.
Hanukkah celebrates the miraculous victory of the Maccabees and celebrates freedom from religious intolerance and persecution. It is a time of happiness, pleasure and great rejoicing. To this day, Jews around the world celebrate Hanukkah, reliving the miracle of the Menorah and cherishing a tradition now more than 2,000 years old.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.