Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah (Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה, usually spelled חנוכה pronounced [χanuˈka] in Modern Hebrew, also romanized as Chanukah or Chanuka), is observed for eight nights and days. It starts 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.
Did you know these facts?
- Hanukkah is not considered a significant religious holiday when compared to other Jewish holidays.
- The menorah holds nine candles. In the center stands the shamus or servant. The shamus lights the 8 other Hanukkah candles.
- The Hanukkah candles are strictly for pleasure. They are not to be utilized for any useful or productive purpose. The shamus is available, so the Hanukkah candles aren’t accidentally used to light a fire in the fireplace or another useful purpose.
- Gift giving is not traditionally a part of the Hanukkah holiday.
- Playing dreidel is a gambling game popular during the Hanukkah holiday.
- Fried foods are traditional during the holiday, representing the oil used to light the lamps
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During the time of Alexander the Great, Jewish culture began to blend with the Greek culture. Jews who accepted Greek culture at the expense of their religion became known as Hellenists. Alexander and the Jews had a mostly peaceful relationship; the Jews were loyal to his rule, and Alexander didn’t destroy and abuse them.
Around 190 BCE, when Alexander left Israel, and Antiochus IV took over, most Jews had assimilated to Greek culture but continued to practice their faith. However, Antiochus expected more from the Jews.
Antiochus forced Greek culture on the devout Jewish people by placing Hellenistic priests in the Temple. He also desecrated the Temple by sacrificing pigs at the altar, prohibiting Jews from practicing their faith, killing their faithful, and levying heavy taxes upon them.
A rebel force of Jews formed around the year 166 BCE. They revolted against Antiochus’ government and took back the Temple. So that they could rededicate the Temple, oil was needed for the menorah. But there was only enough undefiled oil to last one night. Miraculously, it lasted eight days. Hanukkah is the eight-day Festival of Lights commemorating this miracle of the oil.