On the Hebrew calendar, Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days, beginning on the 25th day of Kislev and ending on the second day of Tevet. The Kislev month is traditional, yet has varied in length since ancient times, from as short as twenty-nine days to as long as thirty days. The precise date of the holiday in the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, since the starting point of Kislev may start in either late November or in early December.
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The Hanukkah Story and the 8 Day Celebration
The Hanukkah celebration is a joyous holiday throughout which the miracles that occured during this story are remembered. After the Macabees fought and successfully captured the temple in Jerusalem, they found only a single day’s worth of oil to light the Menorah, yet miraculously it burned for 8 days. Every year, the holiday is celebrated for 8 days to remember that miracle. During these 8 days of celebration the candles of the Menorah, known as a hanukkiyah, are lit each night. On the first night, one candle is lit and then on the second night an additional candle is lit. This process is repeated until all 8 candles are lit on the final night.
Interesting Hanukkah Customs
Lighting the Hanukkiyah
The most well known Hanukkah tradition is to light the Hanukkiyah with the blessings. On each consecutive night, one additional candle is lit from left to right on the hanukkiyah. Each candle must be lit at nightfall to keep with the authentic Hebrew calendar time frame. On the eighth night all the candles must be lit at once. The blessings are said before each candle is lit: Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech Haolam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav, v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah
Playing Dreidel Games
Another popular Hanukkah custom, especially in homes with children, is playing the game of dreidel. This fun game emerged around the same time of the Maccabean Revolt and is still celebrated by Jews around the world today. Traditionally a four-sided dreidel with hebrew letters written on each side is spun and participants bet or give away items according to the letter the dreidel lands on.
Eating Traditional Foods
Latkes and sufganiyot are traditional foods that are eaten in celebration of the holiday. Latkes are fried potato pancakes that are eaten to commemorate the miracle of the oil lasting in the Menorah for 8 days. Sufganiyot are doughnuts that are stuffed with jelly and fried in oil to remind us of the Hanukkah miracle.
The celebration of Hanukkah on the Hebrew calendar is a joyous and meaningful time for Jewish people around the world. It is an important part of Jewish heritage that has been celebrated for centuries as a reminder to never abandon the faith or hope of the Jewish people. The celebration of Hanukkah celebrates the Maccabees’ victory and the miracles that occurred, all of which are remembered throughout the 8 days of religious observance.
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