Hanukkah is the Hebrew word for “dedication” and celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Commemorating the victory of “the Maccabees”, a small group of Jewish rebels led by Judah Maccabee, over the armies of Syria. The modern-day celebration of this Jewish holiday is a festive eight-day celebration that focuses on family and friends. Which includes singing and playing special songs and games such as the dreidel. This holiday also called the Festival of Lights, falls during the darkest, coldest season of the year when candles are lit bringing warmth into the homes of many Jewish families.
The lighting of the Hanukkah menorah, the typical multi-branched candelabra, marks the celebration of this Jewish festival. The story says that when the Maccabees rebuilt the altar, part of that included relighting the menorahs. The soldiers only had enough oil to light the menorah for a single night, but that little bit of oil burned for eight days birthing the miracle of the oil. That’s why the celebration lasts eight nights.
Food always plays an essential part in culture and Hanukkah is no exception. Celebrating Hanukkah includes eating foods fried in oil, because of the great miracle. The most traditional foods are latkes, which are potato pancakes, sufganiyot, which are jelly donuts, bimuelos, or fried dough puff, and keftes de prasas, which are leek patties. These foods cannot be missing on this holiday celebrating tradition.
You may wonder when Hanukkah starts exactly? Well, the dates of Jewish holidays are determined by the ancient Hebrew calendar as opposed to the Gregorian calendar, which we normally use. The Hebrew calendar is based on the lunar cycle. So, while Hanukkah starts on the same day every year on the Hebrew calendar (25 Kislev), it is not the same date on the regular calendar, so it has a “different” date each year.
It tends to fall somewhere between late November and late December. Due to the coincidental timing of Christmas and Hanukkah, some Jewish families participate in present exchanges and decorating, which are a big part of American culture.
You may wonder if this is the most important Jewish holiday? The answer is not really. Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) both in the fall, are two of the most sacred Jewish holidays.
Unquestionably, this Jewish celebration brings light, joy, and warmth to Jewish communities and homes as they celebrate every day of the festival with candles, food, family, and friends. We have some great Hanukkah gifts at TeeChip to celebrate with the Jewish person in your life.