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What is Hanukkah

Shashank Nakate Nov 20, 2018
Here's an information about the important Jewish festival of Hanukkah. Read on to know more...
The festival of Hanukkah is celebrated by Jews in memory of the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabean Revolt against the oppressive Syrian-Greek rulers was successful in restoring the purity of this temple. Hanukkah, also known as the 'Festival of Lights' begins on the 25th day of 'Kislev' (third month in the Jewish calendar).

Why Is Hanukkah Celebrated??

Commemorating the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian-Greeks is the main idea behind celebrating this festival. Lights on a nine-branched Hanukiah/ Menorah are kindled for eight days.
This Hanukiah is actually used to hold 8 lights with an additional place for a shamash (extra light/sexton/attendant).

Story of Hanukkah

The story of Hanukkah began with the Syrian-Greek soldiers seizing the Jewish Temple in 168 BCE. This temple was used by the Syrian-Greeks to worship the Greek God Zeus.
The situation became even worse for Jews when Antiochus, the Syrian-Greek emperor, decided to punish the observance of Judaism by a death sentence; Jews were also made to eat pig flesh. It was Matthias, a High Priest, who initiated the revolt against this injustice. He killed a Greek officer and his accomplices, on being provoked.
This triggered a rebellion led by the Maccabees/Hasmoneans. The Maccabees were successful in regaining the control of Holy Temple. They wanted to purify the temple by burning the ritual oil for eight continuous days.
However, they found that only a single day's oil was left. Miraculously, the oil is said to have lasted 8 days. This miracle lead to the tradition of celebrating Hanukkah for 8 days.

Some Important Facts

  • The pronunciation of Hanukiah/Menorah is made as ha-noo-kee-yah. Chanukkah Menorah is the alternative name used for the Hanukiah Menorah.
  • The lights of Hanukiah have to be lighted from the left to the right side. The newest candles have to be placed at the extreme left.
  • The Dreidel, a four-sided spinning top, was used by Jews at gatherings where the holy scripture was studied. Since the practice of Judaism was outlawed by Antiochus, the Dreidel was kept as a possession by Jews to pretend about playing the game and not studying the holy scriptures.
  • Amongst the different traditions related to this festival, one is where people give money (or chocolate) to children. This money is termed as Hanukkah Gelt. The word gelt is used in reference to money in the Yiddish language.
  • The Hanukkah lights are burned after it gets dark during this festival. It is said that the lights should burn for about half an hour.
  • There are many songs associated with Hanukkah festival. "Chanukah, Oh Chanukah" and "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" are popular English songs.

Foods for Hanukkah

The food items made are usually fried. Olive oil is used to prepare these fried foods. Potato pancakes is the main food associated with this festival. Jam-filled donuts are eaten by the Israeli, Polish, and Sephardic families. Deep-fried sufganiyot and bimuelos are also prepared for Hanukkah.
Now you must have understood why this Jewish festival is celebrated.