How well do you know about the festival of Hanukkah? It is observed for eight nights and days and is celebrated across the world.
Several festivals are celebrated around the world. People from everywhere are excited to celebrate Christmas and New Year. Every winter, Jewish people spend eight nights eating latkes, lighting candles, and spinning dreidels. The festival starts on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar.
Hanukkah is a Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. It is a lesser-known holiday in the Jewish tradition, but because it falls around Christmas, in modern culture, it is a big celebration. Families get together and celebrate this festival of lights.
But beyond the fried food and lights, several facts about Hanukkah are still not known. For instance, do you know the White House hosts two Hanukkah receptions every year? If you are celebrating Hanukkah for the first time, then you should know facts about Hanukkah and its rituals.
Hanukkah is 2200 years old, but it is the newest holiday that does not appear in the Hebrew Bible. Based on the Greco-Roman model of celebrating a military triumph, Hanukkah was initiated in 164 BC to celebrate the victory of a ragtag army of Jews against the powerful army of King Antiochus IV of Syria.
The Maccabees captured Jerusalem from Antiochus’ control and removed from the Jerusalem temple symbols of pagan worship that Antiochus had introduced. Today, Hanukkah is a commemoration as it responds to several factors pertinent to Jewish history and life.
Hanukkah festival is celebrated with rituals that are performed every day for eight days. While some rituals are family-based, others are communal. People go to work as usual but come home early to be with their family.
In Israel, schools are closed from the second day for the whole week. The families exchange gifts and like books or games. Fried foods are eaten to celebrate the importance of oil during the Hanukkah. Some people also eat dairy products to remember Judith.
Here are some more facts about the Hanukkah festival.
There is a minimum of 44 candles in the box of Hanukkah. These candles are enough for one person to light Hanukkah.
Some boxes might include more candles. Nowadays, you can get a variety of colors and wax types. They light the candles in Menorah from left to right. The light two candles the first night, three on the second night, and so on.
During the festival nights, Jews light a candle to pay tribute to a miracle that happened back in 165 BCE. An army of Jewish rebels conquered the Syrian Greeks who had outlawed Jewish practices. The Maccabees (the army of Jewish rebels) reclaimed the temple.
They had enough oil to light a lamp for one day, but the oil lasted for eight days. It is a Jewish festival that reaffirms the ideals of Judaism and commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem.
Don’t worry if you spell Hanukkah wrong! It is a feast of dedication and has a variety of altered spellings like Chanukah, Hannukah, and more. People also spell it as Khahnoocca and feel proud that the spelling is correct.
Kids play with Dreidel, which are spinning tops. According to the tradition, before the Maccabees revolted, Jews were not allowed to read the Torah, so they would study the text while gambling with spinning dreidels.
The four sides of a dreidel have a Hebrew character: Gimel, Hay, Shin, or Nun. The four letters stand for the new phrase “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham," which means a great miracle happened there.
Hanukkah is not the biggest Jewish holiday, but it occurs around Christmas; therefore, it became popular around the world. Today, Jewish people from every corner follow this tradition and celebrate it.
People celebrate Hanukkah by giving kids and their relative's money and not wrapped gifts. But because gift-giving plays an important role in Christmas, people now give gifts to their closed ones. To cherish both traditions, most Jews give gifts to kids in the form of chocolate gold coins.
The festival celebrates oil. The popular recipes that are prepared during this festival are latkes served with sour cream and applesauce. It is a shallow fried pancake flavored with grated garlic or onion. Some variations are also served with sweet potatoes. It is not the healthiest food but loved by all.
The 100gm Sufganiyah packs 400-600 calories. One potato latke contains 150 calories, and chocolate coins 80-85 calories each. It is a tradition to eat jelly donuts during Hanukkah. It is impossible to miss eating jelly donuts and during the festival. You would find this amazing, but in Israel, around 17.5 million donuts are eaten on the occasion of Hanukkah.
While Hanukkah is nine-branched candelabra, Menorah is seven-branches candelabra used in synagogues. Sometimes Hanukiah is called a Hanukkah Menorah; therefore, confusion sets in. A Hanukiah has nine candles for each night and an extra candle to light others.
Olive oil was used to light the Chanukiah but was replaced by candles that are inserted incrementally from right to left. The ninth candle is called the shamus and is placed at a different height than the others. It is lit first, and then it is used to light other candles.
GPS Navigation helps when organizing the Hanukkiah. According to rules, you should place the candles right to left and correspond to the direction you read the Hebrew language. But light the candles from left to right, giving importance to the new candle first.
A book by Joseph Karo, Shulchan Aruch, states that menorah should not be taller than 31 feet. But according to the Guinness Book of World Record, the largest menorah was designed by Yaacov Agam, unveiled on 29th December 2005, weighs 4000 pounds, and 28ft wide. You can capture this largest Menorah at Grand Army Plaza, New York.
When Christmas songs are played, people dance and enjoy them everywhere. But several songs played on Hanukkah like ‘I have a little dreidel’ and ‘Oh Hanukkah’ never gained much attention.
The US President and the first lady organize Hanukkah parties for several American Jewish politicians, schools, and organization heads. Hanukkah made its first appearance in 1951 when PM of Israel David Ben-Gurion gave Harry Truman a menorah as a gift.
In 1979, he became the first president to recognize holidays by publicly speaking at candle lightning events. The first official Hanukkah party was held in 2001. President George W. Bush borrowed a 100-year-old Hanukkiah from a museum. Since then, this tradition is followed at the White House.
Jews follow a tradition of making their children learn about the Torah on this holiday by gifting them golden-wrapped chocolates that look like a coin. Hanukkah word comes from the Hebrew word Hinuch that means to teach. Other words described the word as well.
The first three letters spell chanu, which translates as rested. The last two letters have the numerical value 25.
Several festivals are celebrated throughout the year in different ways. Hanukkah is a festival of lights and good vibes. Are you excited to celebrate Hanukkah? Do tell us your plans to celebrate Hanukkah this year.
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