The Jewish Festival of Rededication, also called the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day celebration that falls each year on the Hebrew calendar date of Kislev 25.
Which generally falls in December on the Gregorian calendar. Hanukkah, also known as Hanukkah, celebrates the rededication of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
WHEN IS HANUKKAH?
Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, begins on Kislev 25 in the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games, and gifts.
The eight-day Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah or Hanukkah commemorates the new dedication during the 2nd century BC. from the Second Temple of Jerusalem, where the Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean revolt. This group of Jews is known as the Maccabees. The name was formed from the first letters of a Hebrew phrase, “My Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem”, which translates to “Who is like you, God.”
The history of Hanukkah, like the stories of many religious or ancient holidays, has several starting and ending points. The events that inspired the holiday of Hanukkah took place during a particularly turbulent phase of Jewish history. Around 200 BC, Judea, which is present-day Israel / Palestine, came under the control of Antiochus III, the Seleucid king of Syria, who allowed the Jews who lived there to continue practicing their religion. His son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, was less benevolent. Ancient sources report that he outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered Jews to worship Greek gods.
In 168 BC, the soldiers of Antiochus IV Epiphanes descended on Jerusalem, massacring thousands of people and desecrating the city’s second holy temple by erecting an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs within its sacred walls.
Led by the Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons, a large-scale rebellion broke out against Antiochus and the Seleucid monarchy. When Matthathias died in 166 BC. C., his son Judá, known like Judá Macabeo, “the Hammer”, took the helm. Within two years, the Jews had successfully driven Syrians out of Jerusalem, relying largely on guerilla warfare tactics. The revolts turned out to be a success and the Jews regained the right to practice their religion in their temples. To do this, Judah asked his followers to clean the temple and light a menorah with oil that had been blessed by the high priest all night long until the new altar could be built on top of the old one.
This is the golden lampstand whose seven branches represented knowledge and creation and was meant to be kept lit every night. But, there was only one bottle of oil left that would only last one night. They fired it up anyway and it stayed on for eight days, the amount of time needed to press new oil.
According to the Talmud, one of the most central texts of Judaism, Judah Maccabee and the other Jews who participated in the rededication of the Second Temple witnessed what they believed to be a miracle. Even though there was only enough uncontaminated olive oil to keep the menorah candles burning for a single day, the flames continued to flicker for eight nights, giving them time to find a new supply. This wonderful event inspired Jewish sages to proclaim an annual eight-day festival.
The Hannukah story does not appear in the Torah because the events that inspired the holiday occurred after it was written. However, it is mentioned in the New Testament, in which Jesus attends a “Feast of Dedication.”
165 a. C. – The Maccabees recover the temple
In 165 a. C., the revolt of the Maccabees in Jerusalem was finally successful, since they regained control of the Temple, creating the festival
1863 – Thanksgiving
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared that Thanksgiving was the last Thursday in November and found that that year coincided with one of the eight days of Hanukkah. There have only been three other times this has happened, in 1888, 1899, and 2013.
1951 – Hanukkah in the White House
Hanukkah finally reaches the White House when the Israeli prime minister presented a menorah to President Truman.
1996 – A Rugrats Hanukkah
The venerable and popular children’s show, Rugrats, featured a Hanukkah episode that was entertaining and tremendously informative of how and why the holidays came.
Hanukkah celebrations begin when the sun sets on Kislev 25, which generally occurs from late November through December. Every night when the sun sets, a branch of the Hanukkah menorah is illuminated by the shamash, which is the ninth and highest branch of the menorah. Traditionally, candles are lit from right to left, although there is no correct order for placing and lighting the candles.
The prayers accompany the lighting of the candles each night. Once the menorah is lit, it is often placed on a door or window facing the street to share the light with neighbors. They follow traditional songs throughout the night. Food plays an important role on Hanukkah, which includes those who are fried in oil to commemorate the miracle, especially the “latkes” and “sufganiyot.”
- 165 BC – The time of the Maccabees’ victory over the Syrians and the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
- 32 feet: the height of the Menorah in New York’s Grand Army Plaza, the largest in the world.
- 1951 – Harry Truman was the first president to celebrate Hanukkah in the White House, where he accepted a Menorah as a gift from the Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion.
- 4 – The four-sided spinning top was invented as a distraction when the Greek-Syrians had banned Jewish studies, so the Jews spun dreidels to pretend that they were simply playing while engaged in their scriptures.
- 175 million: the number of jelly donuts eaten in Israel throughout Hanukkah
- 5 – The amount of ingredients used to make potato latkes or potato pancakes, a delicious Hanukkah specialty
- 9 – The menorah has nine candles, eight of which represent each Hanukkah night.
- 40,000 – The estimated number of soldiers the Maccabees, led by Judah the Mighty, defended against.
- 164 BC – The time when Yehudit (Judith) served salty cheese to a Greek general, who quenched his thirst with wine so much that he fainted and had his head cut off.
- 323 BC – After the death of Alexander the Great, the Seleucid Empire emerged from its fractured empire, the land where Israel now stands.
HANUKKAH FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Are Chanukkah and Hanukkah the same?
What is the history of Hanukkah?
The Hanukkah story is how the Maccabees were able to defeat the Greco-Syrians and claim the Temple of Jurasalem as their own to practice Judaism.
Why do we celebrate Hanukkah?
We celebrate Hanukkah to remember and appreciate the battles the Maccabees fought against their oppressors and how they managed to win their religious freedom.
What is the miracle of Hanukkah?
The Hanukkah miracle is how after winning the battle, the Maccabees had to rededicate the church, but they needed to light a candle every day to do so. There was only enough oil for one day, but it lasted eight, that’s the miracle.
Light the menorah
Every Hanukkah night, use the “shamash” or main candle to light one of the eight candles in the menorah, so that on the last night of Hanukkah, all eight candles are lit!
Give some gelt
Gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins, known as gelt, are traditional Hanukkah treats. The tradition goes back to the Maccabees who produced their own money after defeating the Greeks!
A dreidel is a traditional four-sided spinning toy. Each side has a Hebrew letter: “nun” means to do nothing; “shin” means you put one; “he” means you get half of what’s in the middle; and “gimel” means you get the whole pot. Play for gelt or real money to have a good time!
WHY WE LOVE HANUKKAH
It’s a beautiful story
Hanukkah is a celebration of the Jewish victory over a tyrant king and a rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jews fought for freedom and claimed their holy temple; In order to rededicate it, they needed to light the menorah, but they only had enough oil for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days. Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration to commemorate the eight-day miracle.
There are eight nights of celebration
Hanukkah isn’t just one night of fun, it’s eight nights of fun! That means eight nights to get together with loved ones to light the menorah, eat a hot meal, and, yes, exchange gifts!
We love delicious food
It is traditional on Hanukkah to pay homage to miracle oil by eating food fried in oil! That means delicious latkes, which are deep-fried potato pancakes and sweet jelly donuts.