Hanukkah (Chanukah)

Unlike most of the major Jewish holidays, Hanukkah’s origin is not in the Bible, but rather in events that happened later. This is a holiday that lasts eight days and begins on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev (usually in December).

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that marks the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. It commemorates the Maccabees’ successful revolt for independence and religious freedom against the Seleucids in 167 BCE. The Jews revolted against Antiochus IV, who had desecrated the Holy Temple. In 164 BCE, under the leadership of Judah Maccabee, they liberated Jerusalem from foreign rule and rededicated the Temple.

A miracle recorded in the tradition: When the Maccabees looked for holy oil to light the candelabrum in the Temple, they found only one small flask whose seal had not been broken and was therefore still pure. The oil in the flask was enough for only one day, but a miracle occurred and the oil burned for eight days.

Throughout the eight days of Hanukkah, candles are lit in a Hanukkiah, a candelabrum with eight branches in a row and an extra candle, called the shamash, used to light the other candles.

This is a very joyful holiday and is a special favorite among children. Children play with four-sided spinning tops, marked with the Hebrew initials of a Great Miracle Happened Here.

Another Hanukkah custom is the eating of special foods, mainly those fried in oil, such as fritters and sufganiot, a kind of donut without a hole in the middle, usually filled with jam.