Hanukkah is one of the most important of the Jewish holidays. The members of the Jewish culture have been celebrating this holiday for more than 2,400 years.
Hannukkah – also spelled Chanukah – always lands in mid to late December. On the Western calendar, there is no set date for Hanukkah, but on the Kislev, the Jewish calendar, it always lands on day 25. This year Hanukkah begins at sundown on Dec. 10.
Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights. It is called this because it’s a reminder to all Jewish people of a great miracle that happened many years ago.
About two and half millennia ago, a Syrian king named Antiochus ruled Judea. He tried to convert the Jewish people and have them worship Greek gods, and he oppressed the Jewish culture and the Jewish religion. Many Jewish people were against this change because they did not want to give up their religion.
After a three-year revolt, led by Judah Maccabee and his brother, Antiochus was overturned. When the Jewish people went to look at their temples, they saw nothing but Greek statues and defiled Jewish ones. They redecorated the temple for the 25th day of Kislev, but on this day, they found they didn’t have enough sanctified oil to light the Eternal Light of the Temple. They only had enough for one night, so they lit the candle and expect it to go out after a day. It stayed light for eight days.
The Menorah is used to remember this miracle. The Menorah has nine candles that are lit everyday of Hanukkah. Eight candles are a reminder of the eight days of unexpected light, while the ninth candle, called the Shamash, is used to light all the other candles. Three blessings are said in front of the Menorah on the first night while so are said thereafter. The Menorah is usually placed near a window or doorway and stays lit for at least a half hour after nightfall.
The special food to eat at Hanukkah is called Latkes. Latkes are made of cheeses and are cooked in oil. They are made to remind those celebrating Hanukkah of the escape of Judith, who was held captive my an enemy of the Jews. Judith fed her enemy cheese to make him thirsty, and wine to get him drunk. When he was drunk, she cut of his head and escaped.
“Latkes are like fried potato pancakes,” said Alanna Goldstein, a Jewish sophomore at Quinnipiac. “You can dip them in apple sauce or sometimes even in sour cream.”
The main game that is played at Hanukkah is the Dreidel. This is a game of chance, and the word Dreidel comes from German meaning “top”. The Dreidel contains four sides bearing the Jewish letters: Nun, meaning “take nothing,” Gimel, meaning “take everything,” Hei, meaning “take half,” and Shin meaning “put in.” The winner of the game receive all the money played with. When children play the Dreidel they do not play for money. Instead, they often bet with Chocolates.
Something very important that is done during Hannukkah is singing and dancing. Songs often talk about the Menorah and the food.