What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah commemorates the triumph of the Jews, under the Maccabees, over the Greek rulers (164 BCE) - both the physical victory of the small Jewish nation against mighty Greece and the spiritual victory of the Jewish faith against the Hellenism of the Greeks. Its sanctity derives from this spiritual aspect of the victory, and the miracle of the flask of oil, when a portion of sacramental olive oil meant to keep the Temple candelabrum lit for one day lasted for eight days, the time it took for the Temple to be rededicated.
Observing Hanukkah – Dates
Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. In 2012 Hanukkah begins at sunset on Saturday, December 8, and ends at nightfall on Monday, December 17.
The central feature of this holiday is the lighting of the hanukkiah, a special menorah. On the first night we light one candle. Each subsequent night, we add one additional candle, through the eighth and final night – in commemoration of the miracle at the Temple.
The holiday is also celebrated by singing special Hanukkah songs, such as Ma'oz Tzur, and by reciting Hallel prayer. There are also plenty Hanukkah foods such as latkes and sufganiyot, most of which are made with oil – commemorating the oil from the menorah in the Holy Temple. In this holiday games such as dreidel are played and there is also the giving of gifts.
A Jewish family lights candles in their home