It’s hard to believe, but the holiday season is upon us already. From the evening of December 6th to the evening of the 14th, Jews and many Christians across the world will celebrate this year’s Hanukkah—the Festival of Lights!
Hanukkah is oftentimes not completely understood by people who are unfamiliar with the holiday. So here is a brief overview of what Hanukkah is and how it is celebrated.
Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration that commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem during the second century B.C., the time of the Maccabean Revolt. According to tradition, when the great menorah in the temple was to be re-lit there was only enough oil for the light to burn for one day. However, the menorah burned for eight days, the amount of time needed to prepare a new batch of kosher oil. This is the origin for the eight-day celebration.
Each year, the eight-day celebration begins on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, which most of us are used to, this day could fall at anytime between late November and late December.
Perhaps the most well known aspect of the holiday is the lighting of the Hanukkiah, a nine-pronged candelabrum. People light one candle for each night of the holiday, with the last night having all eight candles lit… plus the extra light, the shamesh—the servant candle—used for lighting all other eight candles. While lighting the candles, there are several traditional blessings given. Jews recite all three traditional blessings on the first night of Hanukkah, with only two on the subsequent nights. An additional blessing is recited once the candles are lit.
As Hanukkah is a time of celebration, there are many festivities that accompany it, including traditional foods, dreidels (Jewish tops), songs and more.
This is only a cursory overview of the holiday, one that barely delves into the unique, beautiful traditions of the Jewish people. But if you were previously unfamiliar with the holiday, it should at least give you a bit more insight and understanding of this fascinating holiday!
Chag Hanukkah Sameach! / Happy Hanukkah Holiday!