This year, Hanukkah began on Dec. 16th at sunset. As most already know, the “Festival of Lights” is celebrated for eight nights, with Jewish families getting together to light the traditional menorah, say spacial prayers and exchange gifts.
However, there are other things about the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, that you may not be so familiar with. Below is a list of five things you likely didn’t know about Hanukkah.
What the Hanukkah Celebration is All About
Simply put, Hanukkah is a celebration of the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, which was built after the Maccabees was captured by the Greek Syrian army. This battle took place during the second century BCE and was about religious freedom. According to stories told, the Jews only had enough oil to use for lighting the menorah for a night, but it ended up lasting for eight nights.
What Does the Menorah Symbolize?
The traditional seven branch menorah was originally nine branches. Eight of the branches represents the night the Maccabees were able to keep light during the battle. The ninth branch represents the helper candle, which is used to light up the other candles. Each night for eight nights, a candle is lit.
Why is the Dreidel Significant?
This is a child’s game that a lot of kids play during the Hanukkah celebration. The dreidel is a four-sided top that has four Hebrew letters inscribed on all sides — Nun, Gimmel, Hay and Shin. These are letters, which stand for “A great miracle there.” This could either represent winning the battle against the Greeks, the oil burning for eight days or just miracles in general.
What Are the Traditional Foods and their Significance?
At Hanukkah celebrations, you’ll find foods like latkas (potato) and jelly donuts. They are both cooked using oil, which holds symbolism for the menorah and the oil used to light it during the battle.
How Come Hanukkah isn’t Always on the Same Date?
Unlike Christmas, Hanukkah comes on different days each year. This is because the Hebrew calendar is used, which doesn’t always match up with the western calendar. However, the celebration is always at the end of the Hebrew month called Kislev, when the moon is waning (almost black). It’s believed that the Hanukkah “Festival of Lights brings more light into the darkness that surrounds us.