Hanukkah (also spelled “Chanukah”) is an eight-day Jewish festival which begins this evening at sundown. The festival commemorates events that took place in Judea more than 2,000 years ago, when the Syrian king Antiochus ordered the Jews to abandon the Torah and publicly worship the Greek gods. This act provoked a rebellion led by Judas Maccabeus, climaxed by the retaking of the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by the Syrians. In an eight-day celebration, the Maccabees (as the rebels came to be known) cleansed and rededicated the Temple (Chanukah means “dedication”). According to the Talmud, there was only enough consecrated oil to relight the candelabra for one day, yet, miraculously, it remained lit for eight days. The central feature of the observance of Chanukah is the nightly lighting of the Chanukiah, an eight-branched candelabra with a place for a ninth candle, the shammes, used to light the others. One candle is lit on the first night of Chanukah, and an additional candle is lit on each successive night, until, on the eighth night, the Chanukiah is fully illuminated. Learn more about Hanukkah and see recipes!
FROM WIKIPEDIA COMMONS
Hanukkah (/ˈhɑːnəkə/; Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה, Modern: Ḥanukka, Tiberian: Ḥănukkā listen) is a Jewish festival commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and subsequent rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE.
Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. The festival is observed by lighting the candles of a candelabrum with nine branches, commonly called a menorah or hanukkiah. One branch is typically placed above or below the others and its candle is used to light the other eight candles. This unique candle is called the shammash (Hebrew: שַׁמָּשׁ, “attendant”). Each night, one additional candle is lit by the shammash until all eight candles are lit together on the final night of the festival. Other Hanukkah festivities include singing Hanukkah songs, playing the game of dreidel and eating oil-based foods, such as latkes and sufganiyot, and dairy foods. Since the 1970s, the worldwide Chabad Hasidic movement has initiated public menorah lightings in open public places in many countries.
Originally instituted as a feast “in the manner of Sukkot (Booths)”, it does not come with the corresponding obligations, and is therefore a relatively minor holiday in strictly religious terms. Nevertheless, Hanukkah has attained major cultural significance in North America and elsewhere, especially among secular Jews, due to often occurring around the same time as Christmas during the holiday season.