Hanukkah Dates: sunset to nightfall on Kislev 25th
Hanukkah is a Jewish religious festival celebrated in many parts of the world.
Hanukkah, also known as Chanukkah, is the Jewish festival of dedication, often referred to as the festival of lights, and is an eight-day festival which starts on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. This is one of the most famous of the Jewish religious festivals, most likely due to its proximity to Christmas. Many non-Jews think of this festival as the Jewish Christmas, but in reality it is not so. Chanukkah is truly a holiday celebrating the victory of the revolution over the suppression of the Jewish religion.
History of Hanukkah
The history of the festival dates back to the times of Alexander the Great. During his rule he allowed his people to practice their own religion. More than a century later, Antiochus IV, one of the successors of Alexander the Great, came into control of the region. Under his rule came a large scale suppression of Jewish belief. He placed a Hellenistic priest in the temple and ordered mass-scale murder of all Jews. He also desecrated the temple by sacrificing pigs on the altar.
These acts of brutality led to several pockets of resistance. There were two major groups who opposed the autocratic rule of Antiochus IV: a group led by Mattathias and his son Judah Maccabee, and a group known as the Chasidim, the forerunners of the Phariseesm. Very soon people gathered in large numbers to support these groups.
Sensing the large scale unrest among the people, Antiochus IV sent out a large army to wipe out all Jews. After a long and bitter war, victory came for the Jews in the year 165 BC. The temple was rededicated and a new altar was built. The festival was instituted by Judah Maccabee to celebrate the rededication of the temple. It is important to note that the day glorifies the rededication of the temple and not the victory in war. This is because Jews do not typically glorify war.
After the rededication of the temple, eight-day celebrations were declared. Originally, olive oil was used to light the menorah. There was only enough oil to burn for one day; however, the oil managed to last for eight days. Hence the eight-day festival also celebrates the miracle of the oil.
Hanukkah Traditions, Customs and Activities
The celebration of the festival is simple. It involves the lighting of candles. The candles are arranged in a candelabrum called a menorah. The menorah contains eight plus one candles. Each of the candles is lit on each day. One candle generally placed at a higher or lower level to others is used to light the other candles. The lighting of the candles is also done to celebrate the miracle which occurred during the first Chanukkah after the rededication.
Like the Hebrew language is read, the candles are lit from the right to the left. Modern day celebrations also include a bit of gifting though it is not a part of the original celebrations. People recite the holy music and play games to celebrate the day of rededication of the temple.