Facts About Hanukkah

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Hanukkah is a Jewish festival, also called the Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication. Hanukkah is derived from a Hebrew verb, the English transliteration of which is to dedicate. It is celebrated for eight days beginning from the 25th day of Kislev (the ninth month of the Hebrew calendar) and may befall from late November to late December according to Gregorian calendar.


• The story says that when Judea (a part of Ptolemaic kingdom) was annexed by Antiochus III (Seleucid Emperor of Syria), he freed his new Jewish subjects to follow their ancestral living and also practise their religion in the temple in Jerusalem.
• However in 175 BC, his son Antiochus IV, invaded Judea and recaptured it forcibly. He assassinated the followers of Ptolemy and charged his combatants to plunder them ruthlessly along with destroying the Holy temple. Judaism was barred, services were ceased and pigs were sacrificed at the altar of the temple.
• Antiochus deeds incited a mass revolt. By 165 BC, Seleucid Monarchy tasted downfall. The Jews rededicated the Second Temple. Hence, Hanukkah was marked to celebrate that triumph.
• The Jewish Law adopted the theory propounded by the House of Hillel (a rabbinical school of thought) for lighting the candles. They favoured one additional candle on each night in continuation till the final night (the eighth night) because they believed that miracle grew in greatness each day.


• The festival is celebrated by the kindling of the lights of a unique nine-branched candelabrum, known as menorah or hanukiah. The archetypal menorah consists of eight branches with an additional patent branch. The extra light is called a Shamash (attendant) and it is located above or below the others. Shamash serves to avail light for practical benefit as the Hanukkah lights are doomed to propagating and devoting upon Hanukkah and its use for other purposes is outlawed.
• Hanukkah rituals are both family-based and communal-based. Adherents recite Hallel prayers daily and are accustomed to pray for the blessings after igniting the candles and after meals during the holiday. Special songs are sung like Ma’oz Tzur.
• Hanukkah candles are generally ablaze one and a half hour before sunset. It is a Thanksgiving Day so candles are lit on windows and on the threshold to involve the passers-by in honouring the heroes of Maccabean revolt.
• People exchange presents and they are accustomed to play with dredeil (a four-sided spinning top with each side imprinted with a Hebrew letter). These letters are an abridgement for the Hebrew word ds Nes Gadol Haya Sham, meaning a great miracle happened there. It refers to the miracle of the oil that apparently occurred in the Beit Hamikdash.


• It is customary to eat fried or baked foods on Hanukkah to observe the miracle of a small flask of oil that kept the flame in the temple ablaze for eight days. Traditional foods include latkes (potato pancakes), doughnuts stuffed with jam, bimuelos (fritters) and deep fried sufganiyot (Oily Doughnuts).
• Around 17.5 million oily doughnuts are eaten in Israel during Hanukkah, honouring the “Miracle of Oil”
• There is also a tradition to have dairy products. Its relevance is recorded in rabbinic literature that says that dairy products are consumed to remember the valour of women in the happenings of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah- The Growth in America
• The festival got recognition in U.S after the immigration of Jews in the late nineteenth century. They desired to celebrate Hanukkah instead of Christmas. Social scenario changed after the Civil War. So to re-establish peace, the natives opted for social gathering to celebrate.
• When U.S. economy was boosted, products were manufactured at a large scale and sold as Christmas presents. But Christmas being a Catholic occasion, was replaced with Hanukkah by the American Jews as both are blissful, full of illuminations and religious zeal. The gifts were also incorporated in Hanukkah. Gradually, Hanukkah got deeper into American roots.
• Restaurants in U.S served Hanukkah cuisines. People also savoured turkey brunch, an American Custom.

• Moreover, public halls were occupied by the American Jewish community to held concerts.

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