The Jewish festival of Hanukkah is upon us, and this is how you celebrate it.
- The meaning
- The menorah
- The dreidel
Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights. It celebrates the defeat of the Syrian Greeks, who had taken over the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and outlawed Jewish practices, by the Maccabees, an army of Jewish rebels, in 164 BCE.
You may have seen Hanukkah spelt several different ways, including Hanukkah, Hannuka, and Chanukah. This is because Hanukkah is a Hebrew word meaning dedication and there is no direct English translation.
Hanukkah is based on the Hebrew calendar. Despite always starting on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev, in the Georgian calendar this can translate to anywhere from late November to late December. This year Hanukkah begins on Thursday 10th December 2020, and will end on Friday 18th December 2020.
The menorah was a seven-branched candelabra that lit the ancient temple in Jerusalem. It was lit only by a specially, ritually-pure, olive oil that took over a week to prepare. After the Maccabees defeated the Greeks and rededicated the temple to God, legend has it that they found a small amount of this pure oil. Normally, the small amount that they found would only have lit the menorah for one day, however, somewhat miraculously, the menorah stayed lit for eight days. This provided enough time for more oil to be prepared.
To celebrate the miracle of the menorah staying lit, Jews light nine-branched menorah’s, called hanukkiah, for all eight days of the festival.
During Hanukkah, the sacred oil that lit the menorah is also celebrated by eating fried food. The two most traditional foods to eat are latkes, fried potato pancakes, and sufganiyot, jelly donuts.
The dreidel is a small spinning top which children often play with at Hanukkah.
Prior to the Maccabees defeating the Greeks, Jews were forbidden from worshipping God or studying the Torah. Despite this, they continued to read the Torah, but simply hid their scrolls away if a Greek was nearby and played with a spinning top.
Today, dreidel’s are played with to commemorate this time, and are marked with 4 Hebrew letters which stand for the phrase, nes gadol haya sham- A great miracle happened here.
Giving gifts was never a Hanukkah tradition, until the rise of Christmas gift-giving prompted American Jews to begin giving gifts at Hanukkah. Traditionally, Jews would give their relatives gelt (money) on Hanukkah. To acknowledge this tradition, many Jews will exchange gifts and give gelt in the form of chocolate coins.
Happy Hanukkah from the whole Laundryheap team.
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