Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated for eight days and nights beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar. This is normally November-December on the Georgian calendar.
The Holiday celebrates the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem. Nearly 2200 years ago Antiochus IV tried to force the Greek culture on the Jewish people of Judea, now Israel. Their most important religious practices were forbidden and they couldn’t study the Torah.
The religious Jews in the region, known as the Maccabees, took up arms to protect their community and their religion. After three years of fighting they reclaimed the temple. They then prepared the temple for rededication – in Hebrew rededication means Hanukkah. They discovered they only had enough purified oil to light the temple light for a single day. Incredibly, the light continued to burn for eight days.
Lighting the Menorah is the most important Hanukkah tradition. It symbolizes the burning light in the temple, as well as marking the eight days of the Hanukkah festival. It also celebrates the light of freedom won by the Maccabees for the Jewish people.
Other Hanukkah traditions
The dreidle, a favorite Hanukkah toy, is a four sided top with Hebrew letters on each side. The dreidle is used by children to play a fun game of chance. It is said that in the time of Antiochus IV the dreidle was used by children as a ploy to conceal that they were studying the Torah.
To play the game of dreidle two to four players get a handful of pennies or Hanukkah gelt (chocolate coins covered in gold foil). The youngest player spins the top and depending on the letter the top lands on the player will follow the directions. The letters mean:
The dreidle is passed around the circle until one player wins everyone’s coins.
Traditionally, fried foods are eaten during Hanukkah. Fried food symbolizes the oil that burned for eight days during the rededication of the temple. Potato pancakes (latkas) and doughnuts (soofganiot) are traditional Hanukkah treats.
Hanukkah is celebrated December 11 – 19, 2009.
Hanukkah web links