A Jewish festival similar to Christmas is the Hanukkah Festivity. It occurs from late November to late December depending on the Hebrew Calendar. It is a special day of commemorating a historical Jewish event. The significant activity for this festivity is the lighting of the Menorah.
What is the Hanukkah Festival?
The Hanukkah is a Jewish festival that commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem during the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights, or Chanukah or Hanukah in Romanized forms. Hanukkah lasts for 8 nights and days and starts on the 25th day of Kislev from the Hebrew calendar. Hence, the day may occur any time between late November to late December on the Gregorian calendar.
During this day, people light candles of a menorah which is a candelabrum containing nine branches. One branch is usually placed above or below the others and one candle is used to light all the other candles. Such candles are called shamash. Every night, one candle is lit by the shamash until all eight candles are lit up on the eighth days of the celebration. Other activities for this festival include playing the game called a dreidel, eating dairy foods and oily foods such as sufganiyot and latkes. There are also public menorah lightings, as initiated by the worldwide Chabad Hasidic movement in the 1970s.
What is the meaning of Chanukah?
Chanukah is Hebrew word that means dedication. This is the reason why such a celebration has that name because it is a day dedicated to the Holy Temple.
What is the History of the Hanukkah Festival?
During the 2nd century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids who were Syrian-Greeks. They tried to force the citizens of Israel to accept Greek beliefs and culture instead of God and the mitzvah observance. However, fighting for their own rights and freedom, Judah the Maccabee led a small group of poorly armed Jews against the Greeks. They were victorious and were able to reclaim the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which then they rededicated to the service of God.
During the time when they wanted to light the Temple’s Menorah (a seven-branched candelabrum), they found a single cruse of olive oil. They were able to light the Menorah and the supply of oil resulted in the light lasting for eight days.
To commemorate such victory and the activity of lighting the Menorah, the sages instituted the celebration of Hanukkah. And now, it is celebrated by the Jewish people all over the world.
When is the Hanukkah Festivity?
This Hanukkah festivity always falls on the 25th day of Kislev and the 8 days following that from the Hebrew calendar.
Why is Hanukkah Important?
The following are the main reasons why the celebration of Hanukkah is important:
The Hanukkah Has a Beautiful Background Story
As mentioned above the history of Hanukkah, has quite interesting background. The celebration is all about commemorating the victory of the Jew against the mighty Greeks and the lighting of the menorah. This is a day when people can remember such an important day and remind themselves of such victory which is the reason why they are experiencing the freedom they have right now.
There Are 8 Nights of Celebration
Another reason why you should celebrate Hanukkah is that you can enjoy it for 8 nights straight. There are no breaks. You will enjoy lighting the menorah candle every night throughout the duration of the festivity.
Delicious Foods are Served
A tradition for the Hanukkah festivity is the serving of traditional Jewish foods, most of which are oil-based. But these are delicious, one-of-a-kind foods. You will surely enjoy eating them when you celebrate Hanukkah so you better participate in this holiday.
How to Celebrate Hanukkah?
The following are the best activities conducted for the celebration of Hanukkah:
The lighting of the Menorah
Of course, the highlight of this festivity is the lighting of the menorah. You will do this every night for eight days until all the candles have been lit.
Eat Traditional Hanukkah Treats
The celebration of this festivity will not pass without traditional foods for it. You get to taste various oil-based Jewish dish prepared for this event. You could also taste the gelt which is a chocolate coin wrapped in gold foil.
Play the Dreidel Game
Another staple activity for this festivity is playing the game called a dreidel. A dreidel is a four-sided spinning time with each side having a Hebrew letter in it. It has nun which means nothing, shin which means put one in, he which means get half of what’s in the middle, and gimel which means get the whole pot. You can have the opportunity to play this amazing game for the Hanukkah festivity.
Facts About Hanukkah Festivity
The following are the most interesting facts about the Hanukkah that are worth sharing to other people:
- You can spell the term as Hanukkah, Hanukah, or Chanukah. All of these pertain to the same holiday celebration.
- The Hanukkah celebrates the victory of Jews against Greeks as well as the miraculously lasting of oil for lighting up candles for 8 days.
- Hanukkah is a grand Jewish celebration but it is not their grandest one. The Passover and Rosh Hashanah are grander than the Hanukkah festivity.
- Traditional foods for the Hanukkah festivity include potato pancakes (latkes), jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot), noodle or potato casserole (kugel), and chocolate coins (gelt).
- The letters inscribed in the blocks for playing dreidel form the phrase Nes Gadol Hayah Sham which means A great miracle happened there.
- The dates of the Hanukkah festivity change every year depending on what the Hebrew calendar dictates.
- There are times when the Hanukkah festival coincides with thanksgiving.
- Jews exchange gifts or money for this festival.
- About 44 candles are lit in the celebration.
- There are scented candles available for the Hanukkah menorah.
Hanukkah Festivity FAQs
How to pronounce Hanukkah?
The common way of pronouncing the name of this festival is Hah-nuh-Kuh. But the Jews, especially the Israeli people, pronounce it as khah-new-KAH.
How to correctly spell Hanukkah?
Hanukkah is a Hebrew word and this is its correct spelling. However, the Jewish people also use the terms Chanukah, Chanukka, and Hanukka, all of which are also considered correct.
Hanukkah is a Hebrew word (spelled חנוכה in Hebrew), not an English one, and there is no standard transliteration. My Jewish Learning uses “Hanukkah,” but “Chanukah,” “Chanukka” and “Hanukka” are also common spellings.
Why does Hanukkah last eight days?
The Hanukkah lasts for eight days because it is celebrated to commemorate the lighting of the menorah candle at the temple which made use of an oil that miraculously lasted for 8 days straight.
What is Hanukkah about?
Hanukkah is about the rededication of the Maccabees at the Temple of Jerusalem after the Greeks were driven away by the Jews. It also celebrates the miracle of the oil wherein a one-day’s supply of oil lasted for eight days.
Is it OK to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah?
To put it simply, Christmas is celebrated by Christians and Catholics while Hanukkah is celebrated by the Jews. These are two different religions. However, it really depends on the people. There are families that are of mixed Jews and Christians/Catholics. They may hold one celebration together for a reunion and enjoy seeing each other. But on the other hand, they may also conduct separate celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah by themselves.
Is the candelabra lit on Hanukkah called a menorah or a hanukkiah?
The term menorah simply refers to a lamp and other kinds of candelabras. However, the specific kind of candelabra with the sole purpose of being used for Hanukkah is called Hanukkiah. Though most people have gotten to call it simply as a menorah.
Why do Jews play dreidel on Hanukkah?
There are various explanations to this staple activity. However, experts believe that dreidel is just an adaptation of another spinning game usually played during Christmas.