Celebrating Eight Days of Hanukkah

A hanukkah menorah lit up Written by: Denny Liu 

Photo from: iStock

Hanukkah (also known as Channukah) is a Jewish festival which celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following the victory of the Maccabees over their oppressors. Similar to Diwali, Hanukkah may also be known as the “Festival of Lights”. This global holiday is celebrated by Jewish peoples all over the world, and this year, will begin on Thursday, December 10th, until Friday, December 18th, for a total of eight days. Hanukkah, like several other holidays, is based on the lunar cycle. This means that Hanukkah can start as early as late November, or as late as December, based on the cycles of the Moon. Lastly, in case you didn’t know, the word Hanukkah actually comes from the Hebrew word for “rededication”!

The origin of Hanukkah comes from events in second-century B.C.. According to legend, after driving out their Greek-Syrian oppressors from the Holy Temple, who had outlawed Judaism, the hero Judah Maccabee ordered the rededication of the temple and the lighting of the menorah. Although the Jewish people only had enough oil to keep the flame burning for a single day, miraculously, the flames lasted for eight nights. During this time, they were able to find other oil supplies, and were inspired to dedicate an eight-day festival in celebration of this holy miracle.

Hanukkah celebrations revolve around a mix of prayers, games, food, songs, and of course, the lighting of the menorah! On each of the eight days of Hanukkah, one new candle will be lit on the menorah, until the final day when all eight candles are lit, symbolizing the eight days the flame lasted in the Holy Temple. Typically, candles are lit from left to right using a “servant” candle, which is placed in the center, and slightly taller than the others. Upon lighting the candles, a brief prayer or hymn will typically be recited, to thank God.

During the eight days of celebration, children typically play games such dreidel (also known as “sevivon”), which involves a four-sided top with a different Hebrew letter on each side. Everyone starts with game pieces, such as nuts or chocolate coins, and depending on which side the top lands on, may win or lose pieces. Once someone has collected all the pieces, they are declared the winner and the round is over.

Fried foods are quite popular during the eight day celebration, such as latkes (potato fried pancakes) and jelly-filled donuts. However, these foods are not universal to all Jewish peoples, as different groups around the world will typically have their own fried foods that they eat during the celebration.

Hanukkah is a joyous time of year for many people around the world, and to those who celebrate it, Happy Hanukkah!

Do you celebrate Hanukkah? What’s your favourite day to celebrate? Maybe you’re preparing for an upcoming holiday? Want to share about Christmas or Kwanzaa? Or maybe you want to tell us about another special tradition.We want to hear from you! Please share your story with us and you might see it in the next post!

This blog was also posted on the IESC blog, International Connections. Click here to check out their blog!

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