Hanukkah

DATE

Dates vary, typically between November and December

An eight day Jewish festival

HOLIDAY TYPE

Cultural and religious holiday (Jewish)

 

OBSERVED BY

Celebrated by Jews around the world

Although Hanukkah began in Israel, now it is celebrated in many countries around the world (Afghanistan, Algeria, Australia, Canada, China, Columbia, England, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Italy, Morocco, Poland, Turkey, United States & Yemen)

CUSTOMS & TRADITIONS

Hanukkah is celebrated in the home, rather than in the synagogue.  The most important custom is lighting the Hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah) which has nine candlesticks — one for each night of Hanukkah and an extra “shammash” candle to light the others.  Candles have been used since the 18th century, but originally, oil lamps would have been lit.

Another ritual of this wintertime festival includes saying a blessing and singing holiday songs and hymns, like “Ma’oz Tzur Yeshu’ati” (Solid Rock of my Salvation).

Other traditions include:  family time, playing with four-sided spinning tops called dreidels, daily reading of scripture and prayers, exchanging gifts and donating to charities.

 

TRADITIONAL FOODS & DRINKS

Food:  Fried foods in oil are eaten to symbolize the oil used to light the menorah, such as latkes (potato pancakes) topped with applesauce or sour cream and sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts).  Also, brisket, kugel (baked pudding or noodle casserole), Hanukkah cookies and gelt (foil-wrapped chocolate coins).

HOLIDAY HISTORY

Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukah, Chanukkah, or Hanukka, means to dedicate.  This joyous event dates back thousands of years.  Hanukkah reaffirms the ideals of Judaism and ceommerates the triumph of the Maccabees (Jews), who had risen up against the Seleucid Empire to reclaim the Second Temple of Jerusalem in 167 B.C.  Hanukkah is also called Feast of the Dedication, Feast of the Maccabees, or Festival of Lights.

The first holy celebration of Hanukkah was recorded in 165 B.C., according to I Maccabees.  This festival lasts eight nights, to commemorate the miracle of the oil in the Temple which burned for eight days when there was only enough supply for one day.  Nowadays, candles are lit on each of the eight days of the festival.

Today, Hanukkah is a national holiday in Israel.  The days of the festival are determined by the ancient Hebrew calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian.