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).
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.
- 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.