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.
Is the estimated Jewish population of the United States in 2011.
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.