Updated: Dec 7, 2021
The Jewish festival of rededication, also known as the Festival of Lights is a full 8 day celebration that falls every year on the Hebrew Calendar date of ‘25 Kislev’, this usually falls in November or December in the Gregorian calendar. This year, Hanukkah starts on November 8 and runs through until December 6. Hanukkah is also referred to as Chanukah and celebrates the rededication of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
It is often called the Festival of Lights because the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts.
Delving into the Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah, the festival commemorates the rededication during the second century BC of the Second Temple in Jerusalem where Jews had risen up against the Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. This same group of Jews were known as the Maccabees. The name was formed from the first letters of the Hebrew phrase “Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem”, which translates to “who is like you, god”.
Hanukkah is a special day in Judaism that remembers an important time in their faith during the holiday season. There are some other similar holidays that different religions celebrate: Diwali which is 5 days long, Las Posadas which is a 9 day celebration just before Christmas and Kwanzaa which is a celebration of African culture for 7 days.
Hanukkah celebrations begin when the sun sets on the 25th of Kislev, which typically occurs from late November through December. Each night as the sun sets, one branch of the Hanukkah menorah is lit by the shamash, making up the ninth and tallest branch on the menorah.
Traditionally, candles are lit from right to left, although there is no one correct order in which to place and light the candles. Prayers accompany each night’s candle lighting. Once the menorah is lit, it is often placed in a door or window that faces the street to share the light with neighbors. The menorah is also lit in synagogues and other public places. Traditional songs follow throughout the evening.
Since the Chanukah miracle involved oil, it is almost customary to eat foods fried in oil. The Eastern-European classic is the potato latke (a pancake) garnished with applesauce or sour cream, and an Israeli favorite is the jelly-filled sufganya (a doughnut).