Hanukkah is a special celebration that takes place each winter by Jewish people around the world. It is celebrated in remembrance of a great revolt that took place against the mighty Greco-Syrian army almost two and a half thousand years ago. All who take part in Hanukkah look to its heroes for inspiration as they relive the bravery displayed by the people of the small Judaean province and the leadership of the Maccabee family who made that victory possible. The story of this remarkable feat and all the characters involved make up the tale of who made Hanukkah.
The Maccabees and the Greco-Syrians
The Maccabee family was comprised of five sons and their father, a Jewish Priest named Mattathias. In 175 BCE, Antiochus IV, the king of the powerful Southern Syrian kingdom, invaded the small Judaean province located in West Asia and imposed oppressive rules. Mattathias led a revolt against the oppressors; his sons, anticipating the ultimate fate of their father, took over the leadership role to continue his legacy. This group of five fighting brothers became known as the Maccabees. With bravery and strong leadership, they were able to liberate the Jewish people from oppressive Greco-Syrian rule and restore the Temple Mount, the home of the Jewish God.
The Celebration of Hanukkah
The Maccabeans won their freedom and in celebration of their victory, they lit a candelabrum in the Temple. Although there was only enough holy oil to light the candelabrum for a single day, the miracle of Hanukkah was said to have occurred when the oil burned for eight days until new oil was available. In order to commemorate this remarkable event and show respect and appreciation to the Maccabees, the Jewish people celebrate the eight day festival of Hanukkah with the lighting of nine candles (or oil lamps) representing the eight days of celebration, plus an extra shamash (guardian) candle.
Customs of Hanukkah
In addition to the lighting of the Hanukkah lamps, other customs of the holiday include the distribution of gifts, playing with a four sided spinning top called a dreidel and eating special fried pastries called sufganiyot, as well as latkes, potato pancakes fried in oil.
These sweet treats, along with the other rituals of the holiday, serve as a reminder of the legacy the Maccabees left behind and the miracle that led to this unique yearly celebration.
The story of Hanukkah and its heroic characters are a testament to the courage and bravery of those who fought against overwhelming odds and in doing so, secured the freedom of the Jewish people. While the Maccabees were the initiators of Hanukkah, it is through their legacy of freedom, faith and family that Jews around the world continue to celebrate this holiday every year.
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Last update 2023-11-22. Price and product availability may change.