Chanukah - Tuesday, December 10, 2024

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What is Chanukah?

The Jewish Festival of Rededication, also called the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day celebration that falls each year on the Hebrew calendar date of 25 Kislev, which generally falls in December in the Gregorian calendar. (In 2020, Chanukah is December 10 through December 18.) Chanukah, also spelled Chanukkah or Hanukkah, celebrates the rededication of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem.

History of Chanukah

The history of Chanukah – much like the histories of many religious or ancient holidays – has various starting and ending points. It kinda started in Egypt, but it also started in Syria. 
Essentially, Judea, which is modern day Palestine/Israel, was part of the Egyptian Empire until they lost a battle to the Syrian empire and then it became part of Syria. The King of Syria, at the time, granted the Jews the right to practice their religion at the Temple of Jerusalem, however, when his son took the throne he forbade it. Why? Mostly because there was a separate faction of Jews that were recently expelled from Egypt that wanted the current king to stop the practice of this particular faction. So they looted and pillaged the temples and outlawed Judaism effectively in that kingdom. 
In fact, the king ordered a large-scale statue of Zeus in the second Temple of Jerusalem that was looted. He then ordered sacrifices in accordance with that religion and this led to a massive revolt from the Jewish peoples. These revolts turned out to be a success, and they regained the rights to practice their religion in their temples. In order to do so, they needed to cleanse the temple and light a menorah with oil that had been blessed by the high priest all night every night until the new altar could be built over the old one. 
But, there was only one flask of oil left that would only last for one night. They lit it anyway and it stayed lit for eight days, the amount of time needed to press new oil. 
The successful liberation and the miracle of that single flask of oil is what is celebrated every Chanukah. An eight day celebration of songs and sacrifices was ordered at the ceremony of the new altar and we have the birth of Chanukah.

Chanukah timeline


A Rugrats Chanukah

The venerable and popular kid's show, Rugrats, featured a Chanukah episode that was both parts entertaining and wildly informative of how and why the holiday came to be. 


White House Chanukah

Chanukah finally hits the White House as the Israeli Prime Minister presented a menorah to President Truman. 



In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday in November only to find that it overlapped that year with one of Chanukah's eight days. There have only been three other times where that has happened, in 1888, 1899, and 2013. 

165 BCE

The Maccabees Take Back the Temple

In 165 BCE, the revolt by the Maccabees in Jerusalem was ultimately successful, as they regained control of the Temple, creating the holiday 

Chanukah FAQs

Is Chanukah and Hanukkah the same thing?


What is the story of Chanukah?

The story of Chanukah is how the Maccabees were able to defeat the Greek-Syrians and reclaim the Temple of Jurasalem as their own to practice Judaism. 

Why do we celebrate Chanukah?

We celebrate Chanukah to remember and appreciate the battles the Maccabees levied against their oppressors and how they were able to win their religious freedom. 

What is the miracle of Chanukah?

The miracle of Chanukah is how after winning the battle, the Maccabees had to rededicate the church but needed to light a candle for every day to do so. There was only enough oil for one day, yet it lasted eight – that’s the miracle. 

Chanukah Statistics

6.6 million
Is the estimated Jewish population of the United States in 2011. 
2.1 percent
That number comes out to about 2.1 percent of the total population. 
7 or 8?
The reason why it took eight days to make olive oil after the Maccabees defeated the Syrian-Greeks isn’ because of oil extraction – but because you have to be spiritually pure to make pure oil. After battle, the Maccabees needed seven days to become spiritually pure and then one day to make the oil. Many scholars believe Chanukah should only be seven days then, but others say the first day is celebrating the victory and the seven other days the rededication of the temple. 

Chanukah Activities

  1. Light the menorah

    Each night of Chanukah, use the “shamash” or head candle to light one of the eight candles in the menorah, so by the last night of Chanukah, all eight candles are burning!

  2. Give some gelt

    Gold-foil-wrapped chocolate coins known gelt are traditional Chanukah treats. The tradition harkens back to the Maccabees producing their own money after defeating the Greeks!

  3. Play dreidel

    A dreidel is a traditional four-sided spinning toy. Each side has a Hebrew letter on it: “nun" means do nothing; "shin" means you put one in; "he" means you get half of what's in the middle; and "gimel” means you get the whole pot. Play with gelt or with real money for a great time!

Why We Love Chanukah

  1. It’s a beautiful story

    Chanukah is a celebration of the Jewish victory over a tyrant king and a rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jews fought for freedom and reclaimed their holy temple; in order to rededicate it, they needed to light the menorah, but only had enough oil for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days. Chanukah is an eight-day celebration to commemorate the eight-day miracle.

  2. There are eight nights of celebration

    Chanukah isn’t just one night of fun, it’s eight nights of fun! That means eight nights to come together with your loved ones to light the menorah, eat a warming meal, and yes, exchange gifts!

  3. We love delicious foods

    It’s traditional on Chanukah to pay homage to the miraculous oil by eating foods fried in oil! That means delicious latkes, which are fried potato pancakes, and sweet jelly doughnuts.

Also on Tue Dec 10, 2024...

Lager Day
Dec 10