Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the dedicating of the second temple in Jerusalem.
When is this day celebrated?
Hanukkah lasts eight days starting on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev. This day can occur anytime from late November to late December.
Who celebrates Hanukkah?
Jewish people around the world celebrate these holidays.
What do people do to celebrate?
There are a number of traditions and rituals associated with Hanukkah. Many families celebrate by exchanging gifts each night of the 8 day celebration.
Lighting the Menorah
The menorah is a special candelabrum with 9 candles. Each day an additional candle is lit. The ninth candle is called a shamash. This candle is generally in the middle and set higher from the other 8 candles to separate it from the rest. It is the only candle that is supposed to be used for light.
Singing of Hymns
There are Jewish songs and hymns that are special for Hanukkah. One of them is the Maoz Tzur which is sung each night after the menorah candles are lit.
The dreidel is a four sided top that children play with during Hanukkah. Each side has a letter that has special significance to the Hebrew religion.
Hebrew people eat special foods during this time. The traditional food is fried in olive oil to represent the miracle of the burning oil lamp. They enjoy potato pancakes, doughnuts stuffed with jam, and fritters.
History of Hanukkah
In 164 BCE, the Jewish people revolted against the Greeks in the Maccabean War. After their victory they cleansed the temple and re-dedicated it. There was an oil lamp there that only had one day of oil, but the lamp burned for 8 days. This is called the miracle of the oil and is where the 8 days of celebration comes from.
Fun Facts About Hanukkah
- Other spellings for this holiday include Chanukah and Chanukkah.
- It is often referred to as the Festival of Lights or the Festival of Dedication.
- The word Hanukkah comes from the Hebrew word meaning "to dedicate".
- This was not a major Jewish holiday until the late 1800s. Now it is one of the most popular and celebrated Jewish holidays.
- One tradition is to give gold coins called gelt. Today children are often given chocolate coins in a gold wrapping to make them look like gelt.
- The menorah candles are to burn for at least half an hour after the sun sets.
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