What is Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights ?

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Shalom, today we will bring you a brief overview about Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, and one of the happiest and most colorful of Jewish festivals. 

The meaning of the word Hanukkah in Hebrew is dedication. Jewish people from all over the world commemorate the great victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, and the rededication of the Holy Temple at the year 164BC.

Hanukkah occurs at December and celebrated for eight days. Over the years, since it's proximity to Christmas, Hanukkah has become the major Jewish event for bringing gifts to each other.


Customs of Hanukkah

The symbols of Hanukkah are the 9 branch Hanukkah Menorah and the Dreidel (Sevivon) - a spinning children toy. The special Hanukkah foods are the Sufganiyah - Sweet doughnut, usually filled with strawberry jam, and the Leviva (Latkes) - potatoes pancake. Both the the Sufganiyah and Leviva are deep fried in oil, to symbolize the olive oil which was used to light the Temple Menorah in the old days.

Jewish Families gather around their Hanukkah Menorah during each night of Hanukkah to recite the Hanukkah blessings, kindle the Hanukkah light, sing Hanukkah songs, play the dreidel game and eat the special Hanukkah foods.


The Hanukkah Menorah

9 Branch Candelabra / candelabrum / candleholder, made from various materials, including Glass, wood, metal, stone and other materials.


Solid Brass Hanukkah Menorahs, made in Israel circa 1960's.

8 Candles are placed in a straight row and a seperate candle is used for lighting them, this is called the servant light or Shamash in Hebrew. The Shamash is used to light the other candles, since the Hanukkah candles are holy, and it is forbidden to use them for any purpose other than viewing. It is a Mitzvah  (good deed) for everyone to participate and kindle the Hanukkah candles. We start with one candle and add another candle each day untill the end of Hanukkah, when all eight candles are lighting. According to the tradition, when lighting the Hanukkah Menorah, it should be placed in a front window or by a doorway, for all to see.  

The Menorah is a Jewish family heirloom which is transferred from father to son. Nowadays, old Menorahs are also considered a highly collectible Judaica, Artistic item.You will find more unique Hanukkah Menorahs Here


The Hanukkah Dreidel (Sevivon)

Typically square in design, this spinning children toy is played around the Hanukkah table. On each of its four sides there is a different letter in Hebrew, and when playing we spin the dreidel and see on which letter it falls.


Hanukkah Dreidel Spinning Top

The four hebrew characters are usually  'Nun' 'Gimel' 'Hey' 'Shin' - Nes Gadol Haya Sham - A great miracle happened there. In Israel, the last character is replaced with 'Pey' - Po, Here. A great miracle happened here.

It is believed that the Dreidel was used by the Jewish people at the times when the greeks conquered Jerusalem, to conceal the fact they were studying the Torah, the Jewish religion. The Greeks strictly forbidden studying or practicing the Torah, and the Jewish people were hiding in caves and studying. When Greek soldier came for an inspection, the Dreidels were pulled out and everyone was pretending to play. You can see more hand made Dreidels Here

Hanukkah Special Foods


Deep fried and shiny.... The Sufganiyah (left) is a sweet doughnut, filled with everything from chocolate to ice cream, traditionally filled with strawberry jam. The Leviva / Latkes (right) is a fried potatoes pancake, traditionally served with sour cream. Not recommended for a low fat diet.... :)

Now, after we have kindled the Hanukkah Menorah, played with the Dreidel and had something nice to eat, a bit of History won't hurt


The Story of Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a celebration of Religious freedom - a principle that remains as relevant today as it was  2,200 years ago, when the story of Hanukkah takes place...

At that time, the land of Judea (Israel now) was ruled by the Greco-Syranian king Antiochus Epiphanes, who prosecuted Jews by forcing them to worship Greek Gods and forbidding them to practice their own religion. A revolt was organized by Judah Maccabee and his four brothers, and a battle began, a battle of the few against the many. After three years of brave fighting against the Greek forces, the rebels drove the Greco-Syranians out of Judea.

Upon victory, the Maccabees reclaimed the Holy Temple and removed the Greek idols that had been placed there. However, they found that the Greeks had defiled the oil that ws needed to burn the Temple Menorah, which was supposed to burn without interruption. All they found was a little hidden oil canister, with only enough oil to burn the Menorah for one day. But miraculously, the oil in the little canister lasted for eight days and eight nights, at which time more oil was produced. This story is known as the "Great miracle of the oil canister".

In celebration, Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, for eight days and nights.


I hope this guide was helpful to shed some light about Hanukkah. Thank you for reading and have a Happy Hanukkah !


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