Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights or the Festival of Dedication, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
The festival recalls a time over 2500 years ago when Antiochus, A Greek-Syrian King, tried to make the Jewish people worship Greek Gods. This took place in Jerusalem, the Holy City. A small group of Jews, Judah Maccabee and his brothers rebelled, and after a three year war they recaptured Jerusalem from the Greeks. But the Temple was destroyed.
The Jews had to repair the Temple and after repair they rededicated it to God. They did this by lighting the lamp, the Menorah, which was a symbol of God's presence. Only one small jar of oil was found, which was enough for only one day, but miraculously the lamp stayed lit for eight days.
The Hanukkah festival starts on the Hebrew calendar date of 25 Kislev, and lasts for eight days. Here are the coinciding secular dates for the upcoming years.
- 2012 – December 8-16
- 2013 – November 27-December 5
- 2014 – December 16-24
- 2015 – December 6-14
The first candle of the menorah is lit at nightfall of the first date listed above (for each year.
Every community has its unique Hanukkah traditions, but there are some traditions that are almost universally practiced. They are: lighting the hanukkiyah, spinning the dreidel and eating fried foods.
- Lighting the hanukkiyah: Every year it is customary to commemorate the miracle of the Hanukkah oil by lighting candles on a hanukkiyah. The hanukkiyah is lit every night for eight nights.
- Spinning the dreidel: A popular Hanukkah game is spinning the dreidel, which is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters written on each side.
- Eating fried foods: Because Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes and sufganiyot during the holiday. Latkes are pancakes made out of potatoes and onions, which are fried in oil and then served with applesauce. Sufganiyot are jelly-filled donuts that are fried.