Chanukah also spelt as Hanukkah or Chanukkah is known as the festival of lights, which is celebrated for 8 days and nights by Jewish people. Usually, it is celebrated by the end of November or the beginning of December. The exact date changes annually in the Gregorian calendar. The reason behind this is that Hanukkah is always celebrated on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar.
Chanukah is a Hebrew word which in English means dedication. This celebration is a long Jewish holiday. During the reign of Alexander the Great, the Jewish culture was largely influenced by the Greek culture, which resulted in the Hellenization of Jews. This means that Jews slowly began to incorporate Greek practises sometimes to the extent of abandoning their own traditions.
In 190BCE when Antiochus IV replaced Alexander, he began to force the Greek culture on the Jews who were loyal to their traditions. He hurt their religious sentiments by placing Hellenistic priests in their temple, forbidding Jews from practising their faith and by conducting pig sacrifices at the altar. He persecuted them by levying heavy taxes and killing their devout.
Around 166BCE a small group of faithful Jews along with Judah Maccabee, their leader revolted against the government, defeated the strong army and drove them away from their lands. They reclaimed their holy temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to their belief.
When they wanted to light the menorah(candlestick) the only oil they had was the Olive oil that was left by the Greeks. Miraculously they were able to light the menorah with available oil that lasted for eight days until they could prepare the new oil.
On this day people celebrate the dedication of the great temple also known as Second Temple of Jerusalem by lighting candles on each day of the festival. In Hebrew scriptures, Hanukkah is widely celebrated and it is one of the most popular festivals in Jewish religion. The Chanukah or Hanukkah is reminiscent of the battle waged against the oppressors of freedom and celebrates the sweet victory in the iridescent glow of the menorah that tells the tale of triumphing freedom over dark ages of history.
How Can We Observe Chanukah?
- Light Candles
The definition of this festival is to light menorah, so join in this celebration by lighting some candles on each day.
- Playing Dreidel
This is one of the favourite activities on this day. It is a gambling game of a four-sided spinning top called Yiddish.
- Song & Gift
Chanukah is also a time of joy and the occasion is celebrated by singing of traditional Ashkenazic and Sephardic songs. Some families enjoy decorating their homes for Hanukkah and they also exchange gifts on all the eight days of celebration.
- Latkes and Doughnuts
Another way to celebrate this day is to make some potato latkes as a reminder of the miraculous oil during the lighting of the menorah. On this day families also teach their children about the history and significance of this day.
- Social Media
Post your Chanukah day celebrations on social media using #Chanukah and #Hanukkah.
Interesting facts About Chanukah!
- According to a few scholars, Chanukah is a seven-day celebration. Others claim that the first day is the celebration of the victory and the following seven days are for the rededication of the temple.
- Hanukkah though considered as the most popular celebration is not the biggest Jewish holiday.
- After the battle against the Syrian-Greeks, according to some sources Maccabees had to wait for seven days to be spiritually pure to make pure olive oil according to their tradition.
- The food in Hanukkah isn’t necessarily healthy
- Popular kids show Rugrats featured an episode on Chanukah in 1996.
- Sometimes Hanukkah coincides with thanksgiving, it has happened four times so far in the years 1863, 1888, 1899 & 2013.
- In the year 1951, the Israeli Prime Minister presented a menorah to President Truman.
- The Menorah holds 9 candles, the centre one also known as the Shamus lights the other 8 candles.
History of Chanukah:
This day is celebrated annually since the victory of the Jews over the Syrian-Greek oppressors and the rededication of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 166BCE.