Hanukkah has been celebrated for centuries, dating back to the 2nd century BCE when the Maccabees fought for religious freedom and re-dedicated the Second Jewish Temple. Each year, on the 25th day of Kislev, Jews around the world come together to celebrate this significant event with a combination of religious services, prayer, and different kinds of festivities. But when exactly is Hanukkah in a given year?
This year, Hanukkah began on the evening of Thursday, 10th December 2020 and ran through the evening of Friday, 18th December 2020. As with many festivals of the Jewish faith, Hanukkah was celebrated this year for eight days and nights. The culmination of the holiday is known as Zos Chanukah, and this year marked the occasion at sunset of Friday, 18th December 2020.
To discuss the deeper meaning and relevance of Hanukkah, it is important to know a few key facts about the holiday.
What is the Hanukkah Story?
The Hanukkah story is told in the Book of Maccabees, and emerges from a story of religious oppression. Back in the 2nd Century BC, a Syrian-Greek king named Antiochus IV persecuted the Jewish people and threatened to destroy the Second Jewish Temple. The Maccabees, a small Jewish army, led a revolt and were ultimately victorious, and recaptured the Second Temple from the Greeks. As a result, the Jewish people were granted religious freedom.
The Hanukkah celebration marks the victory of the Maccabees and the re-dedication of the Second Temple. It is a holiday dedicated to faith and perseverance, and a reminder of the power of standing up for your beliefs.
The Miraculous Oil
The other part of the Hanukkah story centers around the idea of the “miracle of the oil”. As part of the re-dedication of the temple, the Maccabees wanted to light up the temple’s candelabra, the Menorah, as an expression of their faith.
However, when they searched for oil to light the candelabra, there was only enough to last for one day. In a “miracle”, the oil lasted for eight days instead, and it is this miracle which is celebrated for eight consecutive days on Hanukkah.
What are the Symbols of Hanukkah?
The main symbol of Hanukkah is the Menorah. The traditional Hanukkah Menorah is made up of nine branches, and is used to light up a candle each night for eight days. Additionally, as part of the festival, Jews also give out presents, sing songs and eat traditional food, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts).
Hanukkah gives us the opportunity to reflect on the power of faith and hope, as well as the importance of standing up for our beliefs in the face of oppression. It is a festival of joy, reflection and prayer which gives us the chance to celebrate the victory of the Maccabees and the re-dedication of the Second Temple. Each year, the holiday shifts due to the lunar calendar, and this year, Hanukkah was celebrated from the 10th to the 18th of December 2020.
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