Hanukkah, sometimes called the “Festival of Lights” or “Festival of Dedication,” is a joyous holiday celebrated by Jews around the world to honor the victory of the Maccabees over the oppressive Syrian-Greeks. During the eight-day celebration, observant Jews light special menorahs (candelabras), eat traditional foods, give gifts, and have family gatherings. Hanukkah is an important part of the Jewish historical, religious, and cultural heritage, as it celebrates the courage of a humble, freedom-loving people. Yet, many people wonder, “When Is Hanukkah Over?”
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The start date for Hanukkah is determined by the lunar Jewish calendar and varies from year to year. Although most Jewish holidays are celebrated from sundown to sundown, Hanukkah begins and ends at sunset, meaning that there is the potential for two different days for the start and end of the holiday.
Finding the Hanukkah Date
In order to determine the date of Hanukkah for any given year, one must consult either a Jewish calendar, or the websites of prominent Jewish organizations. Hanukkah typically occurs in November or December on the Western (Gregorian) calendar. In 2019, the first full day of Hanukkah is sundown December 22, and the last day is December 30. In 2020, Hanukkah begins sundown December 10th and ends December 18th.
When does Hanukkah End?
Because of the rule that Hanukkah starts and ends at sundown, the answer to the question “When Is Hanukkah Over?” also depends on the year. The end date is a total of eight days after the start date. Hanukkah ends with a special prayer known as the “Al Haneit” which starts with the text “She’cheyanu,” and includes candles dedicated to the holiday.
The Significance of Eight Days
The number eight has significance in Jewish tradition for several reasons. The first is that the traditional day of rest, or Shabbat, was the seventh day of the week, leaving the eighth day to celebrate the peace that comes with Shabbat. This eighth-day principle is applied to other important Jewish holidays and customs as well. On Hanukkah, Jews celebrate the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem which, according to biblical tradition, occurred on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. The date of celebration changed, however, to the eight days of Kislev, an adaptation that could have been caused by any number of factors, including the need to spread out the holiday due to the large population and the limited number of Temple priests available to do the proper rededication ceremonies.
In conclusion, the answer to the question “When Is Hanukkah Over?” varies from year to year, depending upon the start date for Hanukkah, which is determined by the lunar Jewish calendar. Traditionally, the Hanukkah celebration lasts for eight days, with the end date a total of eight days after the start date. On the final day of Hanukkah, a special prayer known as the “Al Haneit” is offered, which includes candles dedicated to the holiday. No matter when it falls, Hanukkah is an important part of the Jewish tradition and heritage that celebrates freedom, courage, honor, and the miracle of a single day’s worth of oil burning for eight days.
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