What is Hanukkah?

Linden and Danny

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Have you ever wondered what Hanukkah is? Maybe you’re already Jewish and know what people do on these eight days or maybe you’re Christian and know what it is too, but either way, it is an interesting story that everyone should know.

 

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the victory of the Macabees over the larger Syrian army. It also celebrates a miracle that happened during this time, where just a day’s supply of oil allowed the menorah in the rededicated Temple of Jerusalem to remain lit for eight days. Therefore, Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah for eight days. Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which on the Gregorian calendar is late November or December. For example, in 2013 it started on November 27, but this year it starts on the 22nd of December and ends on the 30th. The Hebrew word Hanukkah means rededication.

The Hanukkah (or Hanukkah menorah) is a candle holder, an important Hanukkah symbol. It has nine candles. Traditionally, one candle is separated from the rest, usually by being higher than the other eight. On the first night, only one candle is lit, on the right side of the Hanukkah. On the second night, a second candle is added, and they are lit from right to left. This continues for all eight nights. The candles are never lit directly – instead, the higher candle, (called a shamash, meaning “attendant”) is lit first, and then used to light the rest of the candles. While the candles are lit, blessings are said over them.

Jewish children often play a game called dreidel. The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top, each side having a Hebrew letter. The fire letters (nun, gimel, hey, shin) stand for the Hebrew phrase, “Nes Gadol Haiya Shaam,” meaning, “A great miracle happened there.” In Israel, by contrast, the dreidel reads “Po” instead of “shaam,” meaning “here.” So in Israel, the phrase is, “a great miracle happened here.

Danny and I really hope this article answered all your questions.

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