Hanukkah, The Eight-Day Jewish Festival Of Lights, Begins On Thursday

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Hanukkah will be celebrated from December 10 - 18, 2020 (Credit: Prawny / Pixabay /CC0)

At sundown on December 10th, 2020, Jewish families worldwide will commemorate the first night of Hanukkah, by lighting a candle on a hanukkiah or menorah. Often called the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, which means "dedication" in Hebrew, is an eight-day celebration observed annually on the 25th day of Kislev — the Jewish calendar's ninth month. Though the exact date varies, the holiday always occurs sometime between late November and December.

According to the Talmud, one of Judaism's most central texts, the popular celebration dates back over 2,000 years, when Antiochus IV Epiphanes reigned over Judea, or the Land of Israel. The Greek king, who ruled from 175 BC to 164 BC, banned Judaism and ordered the Jewish people to worship Greek deities instead. To force them to comply, his soldiers killed thousands of Jews. They also violated the Second Temple, the central Jewish place of worship, by installing an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs (considered non-kosher, or not fit to eat in the Jewish culture) inside the sacred structure.

The 36-foot, 4,000-pound menorah in New York City has been certified by Guinness World Records as the world's largest since 2006 (Credit: NYC.gov)

To fight against the oppression, a Jewish priest named Mattathias and his five sons orchestrated a successful rebellion against the Greek king. When Mattathias was killed, his eldest son, Judah Maccabee, took his place and, following a two-year struggle, managed to reclaim the holy site. According to the legend, when worshippers entered the temple, they found a small quantity of oil — enough to light the menorah for a single day. To their surprise, the candles burned for eight consecutive days, providing residents enough time to prepare a fresh batch of kosher oil. Soon after, an eight-day festival was declared to commemorate the miracle oil, and Hanukkah, or Chanukah as it is also called, was born.

Though many fun traditions have been added since, the menorah's lighting remains the centerpiece of the celebrations. Eight candles are lit one at a time to mark each day of the festival. A ninth candle, or shamash (helper), which sits at a slightly higher position in the candelabrum's center, is used to light up the others. Once the ritual and accompanying prayers are completed, families settle down for a delicious feast. To honor the oil's significance to the holiday, many Hanukkah dishes are deep-fried. Among the most popular are latkes — fried potato pancakes — and jelly-filled doughnuts called sufganiyot.

Sufganiyot, or jelly-filled donuts, are a Hanukkah staple (Credit: Noam Furer/ Wikimedia Commons/CC0)

After dinner, it's time for games! The most popular one involves using a dreidel, a spinning top with a different letter etched on each of its four sides, to form the acronym for “Nes Gadol Haya Sham." Hebrew for "a great miracle happened here," it refers to the miracle of the oil lasting eight days in ancient Israel. Each player starts with an equal number of game pieces, such as dried fruit or chocolate coins called gelt. After placing a game piece in a shared pot, the player spins the dreidel. Depending on the side it lands on, participants can lose a game piece to the mutual bowl or hit the jackpot and win the entire loot.

The fun festival is particularly popular with kids who often receive a gift, or two, for each of the eight days!

Happy Hanukkah!

Resources: History.com. Wikipedia.org

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175 Comments
  • wemazame-159737282694
    wemazame-159737282694Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 10:31 am
    ExCellent.
  • unicorn87
    unicorn87Friday, January 29, 2021 at 12:53 pm
    I celebrate hannukah and it is fun but I also celebrate christmas🎄🎄
    • unicorn456
      unicorn456Saturday, January 2, 2021 at 4:02 pm
      Do you have any idea how they celebrate Christmas????
      • ilovehorses7815
        ilovehorses7815Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 12:33 pm
        We do not celebrate christmas
        • chlo33
          chlo33Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 1:58 pm
          yeah because their christmas is hanukkah
      • unicorn456
        unicorn456Friday, January 1, 2021 at 5:11 pm
        That's so cool!!
        • pinklilcow
          pinklilcowFriday, December 18, 2020 at 2:59 pm
          I am doing a report on this for girl scouts!👩🏕
          • weridamong_us
            weridamong_usThursday, December 17, 2020 at 9:09 am
            im making the jelly donuts(sufgainyot) right now!
            • creative_legend
              creative_legendFriday, December 18, 2020 at 7:40 am
              SAME!!! I LOVE JELLY FILLED!
            • devillady2010
              devillady2010Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 6:29 pm
              Merry Christmas to everyone, even to the people who don't do Christmas!
              • devillady2010
                devillady2010Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 6:26 pm
                Wow that treat look so good that holiday looks so cool and super fun. I do not do that holiday, but I do Christmas and Christmas is really fun. All the holidays in the world are super fun even if you do not do any holidays. From: Beach girl2010
                • prettygurll
                  prettygurllWednesday, December 16, 2020 at 9:38 am
                  Have a safe and healthy Hanukkah! (Christmas to!)
                  • malainy
                    malainyWednesday, December 16, 2020 at 9:09 am
                    I celebrate hanukkah and christmas they are awsome i hope evryone has a great holiday!