Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the second century BCE. It is a joyous holiday, celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, the spinning of the dreidel and the eating of traditional latkes and sufganiyot. For many Jews, Hanukkah is the highlight of their year, but it is also noteworthy for another reason – the date of the holiday changes each year. So why does Hanukkah date change?
The Jewish Calendar
The Jewish calendar is known as a lunisolar calendar, which has unique features that distinguish it from the Gregorian calendar used by many other countries. A lunisolar calendar combines elements of both lunar and solar calendars, with each month starting the day after a new moon and lasting 29 or 30 days. As a result, the duration between two new moons is 29 days, 12 hours and 793 parts (or 44 minutes), so the this length is considered a lunar month. In order to keep the calendar attuned to the solar cycle and the seasons, the Jewish calendar intercalates an additional month of 30 days seven times in every 19-year cycle. This is known as a leap month or an intercalarary month. The observance of leap years is similar to the Gregorian leap year, with an additional month usually added in the third, sixth, eighth, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th year.
Why Hanukkah Date Change?
The short answer as to why Hanukkah date change is because it is dependent on the Jewish calendar, which utilizes a lunisolar year, and can thus float from year to year. Hanukkah may occur anywhere between November and December on the Gregorian calendar since the two calendars do not align. Hanukkah 2018 began on the evening of Sunday, December 2 and ended the evening of Monday, December 10, whereas Hanukkah 2019 begins on the evening of Sunday, December 22 and ends on Monday, December 30.
Fixing the Date
It is possible to determine the date of Hanukkah for any given year without much difficulty. All you need to know is that according to the Gregorian calendar, it begins on the 25th day of Kislev, which is the third month of the Jewish calendar. Since the Jewish calendar has 354 or 355 days in a year (which is not consistent with the solar year of 365 or 366 days, and is why leap months are occasionally inserted), days move in the Jewish calendar from year to year.
Typically Hanukkah lasts eight nights, beginning on the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew or Jewish calendar, sometimes referred to as “Chanukah.” However, the actual Gregorian calendar days each one of those nights fall on can change from year to year, just like regular holidays. To find out when Hanukkah is in any given year, simply convert the Hebrew month of Kislev into its Gregorian date.
In conclusion, Hanukkah date changes from year to year because it is based on the Jewish lunisolar calendar, which utilizes leap months to align with the seasons and solar cycle. Knowing that Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of Kislev, the date of the holiday can be derived by converting this day from the Hebrew calendar into its Gregorian equivalent. Although the date may differ from year to year, the joyous celebration filled with the lighting of the menorah, spinning of the dreidel and traditional foods will remain the same.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.