Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated each year for eight days during the month of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar. The holiday, which marks the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, often occurs in late November or early December on the Gregorian calendar. Consequently, the dates of Hanukkah often change each year.
Why Do The Dates Of Hanukkah Change?
The Hebrew calendar, known as the lunisolar calendar, is used to determine the dates of all religious holidays, including Hanukkah.. This calendar is based on a combination of the lunar and solar cycles and consists of 12 months of 29 or 30 days each. Because of the differences between the lunar and solar cycles — with the lunar cycle only lasting approximately 29.53 days — the 12 lunar months only total 354 days. To bring the lunar year into alignment with the solar year (365.2422 days), an extra month is added to the calendar approximately once every three years. This addition causes the dates of religious holidays to change from Gregorian to Gregorian year.
The Length of Hanukkah
Since the Hebrew calendar is based on the moon, the days of the festival may start on slightly different days of the week each year according to the moon’s phases. According to tradition, Hanukkah always begins on the 25th day of Kislev, which can start anywhere between November 28th and December 27th on the Gregorian calendar. Since the lunar month is only 29 days long, Kislev may have either 29 or 30 days, which will determine the length of Hanukkah that year. If Kislev has 29 days, Hanukkah would start on the first day of Kislev and last for 8 days. If Kislev has 30 days, Hanukkah would start on the second day of Kislev and last for 7 or 8 days.
Calculating Hanukkah Dates Accurately
Calculating the exact dates of Hanukkah is a complicated process and is best left to expert scholars of the Hebrew calendar. In most cases, astronomical calculations can predict the beginning of the lunar month and Hanukkah. However, before declaring the date of Hanukkah, rabbis consult the Jerusalem Beth-Din, a group of religious authorities in the Jewish community that oversee and make decisions about Jewish law. They will confirm an official declaration of the beginning of a new month — including the date of Hanukkah — after two reliable witnesses testify to have seen the new moon in Jerusalem.
In conclusion, the Hebrew calendar is based on a lunar cycle that does not always sync up with the solar cycle. This disparity between the two systems causes the date of Hanukkah to change from Gregorian year to Gregorian year, resulting in the holiday sometimes lasting 7 or 8 days. To get the new accurate dates each year, calculations are used and officially confirmed by rabbis from the Jerusalem Beth-Din.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.