Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights
Hanukkah starts at sundown on Dec. 2, 2018, and across the world Jewish people the Festival of Lights. The celebration runs for eight days, ending this year on Dec. 10. And here are the few things that you should know about Hanukkah.
First of all as it is popularly believed Hanukkah is not a Jewish Christmas though many a times these two celebrations overlap and in Hanukkah too like in Christmas gifts are exchanges, but that’s where the similarities end. Then what is Hanukkah?
What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah celebrates the rededication (Hanukkah means dedication or consecration in Hebrew) of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabee revolt in 165 B.C. against Greek-Syrian rule. The temple had been defiled by occupying forces before it was liberated by a small army led by Judah the Maccabee.
According to the legend more than 2,000 years ago in what is now called Israel, a Syrian king named Antiochus ruled. He tried to force all of the Jewish people who lived in his land to follow the Greek gods. Many Jews were opposed to this, including a man named Judah Maccabee, whose last name meant “hammer.” Judah and his four brothers joined together to lead a rebellion against the Syrians that lasted three years. The Maccabees finally made the Syrians leave Israel so the Jews could once again worship their god in the temple of Jerusalem.
The Jewish people decided to clean all the Greek symbols out of the temple, and on the 25th day of Kislev, the Jewish month, they finished. Next, they decided they wanted to have an eternal flame, meaning that once the light was lit, it would never be put out.
They could only find a tiny amount of oil, which they thought would last just a day. But they lit it anyway, and to everyone’s great surprise, it burned for eight days! Today, people celebrate Hanukkah to remember defeating the Syrians and reviving the Temple of Jerusalem. Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days to mark the eight days the oil burned.
Importance of The menorah
People celebrate Hanukkah by lighting candles on a menorah, which is also called a Hanukiyah. The Menorah is a seven branched candelabrum and the type of candelabrum used for Hanukkah celebrations is called a hanukkiah. It has nine branches. Each night, one more candle is lit. There are nine candle spaces on the Hanukiyah. Eight branches of the hanukkiah signify the eight days that the oil lasted in the temple. The ninth branch, usually elevated slightly above the others, is called the Shamash. The Shamash is the first candle lit and it is used to light all of the other candles.
When is it celebrated?
Because the Jewish calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, Hanukkah (and other Jewish holidays) occur at slightly different times each year. Hanukkah can begin any time between Nov. 28 and Dec. 26. Hanukkah starts on the 25th day of the month of Kislev on the Jewish calendar.
Many people also exchange Hanukkah gifts with their family and friends. The custom of giving gifts is relatively recent, having become more popular in the 20th century. Many say that the influence of Christmas played a role in gifts becoming a part of Hanukkah celebrations in recent years.
Decorations are traditionally done in blue, white and silver, which are considered as the Hanukkah colors.
Fried foods are a significant part of Hanukkah traditions because of the significance of oil to the celebration. Latkes, a potato pancake, are popular during Hanukkah. Jelly-filled donuts known as sufganiyot and other sweet treats are popular as well.
Many families give their children dreidels as a first Hanukkah present. The dreidel is not only a fun toy, but is very significant with regard to the celebration. Back in the day that the Greeks ruled the land they were against the Jewish belief system and would not allow them to pray. The Greek punished anyone that was caught doing so or preaching the word. Those that refused often masked their pray congregations by playing dreidel games. When the soldiers would try to break in thinking they were catching them in a disapproving act they would be found to be playing a game.
Historically and even today the dreidles are painted with bright coloring with a message of faith and symbolic drawings. This is how Hanukkah is celebrated across the world.