Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukah, is a Jewish holiday that is celebrated for eight days and nights. It is also known as the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah usually falls in late November or December, based on the Hebrew calendar.
The holiday commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the 2nd century BCE. The story of Hanukkah is rooted in the events that took place under the rule of the Seleucid King Antiochus IV, who outlawed Judaism and desecrated the Temple. A group of Jewish fighters known as the Maccabees revolted against the oppression, eventually reclaiming the Temple and restoring it to Jewish worship.
The most well-known aspect of Hanukkah is the lighting of the menorah, a special candelabrum. The menorah has nine branches, with one branch known as the shamash (the “helper” or “servant”) and the other eight representing the eight days and nights of Hanukkah. Each night, an additional candle is lit, starting with one candle on the first night and progressing to eight candles on the final night.
Other customs and traditions associated with Hanukkah include playing with a spinning top called a dreidel, eating foods fried in oil (such as potato latkes and jelly-filled doughnuts known as sufganiyot), and exchanging gifts. The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with Hebrew letters on each side, and it is often played as a game of chance during Hanukkah.
Hanukkah is a joyous and festive holiday that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and religious freedom. It serves as a reminder of the resilience of the Jewish people and the importance of preserving and practicing their traditions. While Hanukkah is not among the most religiously significant holidays in Judaism, it has gained widespread recognition and is celebrated with enthusiasm by Jewish communities around the world.