December 28, 2016

In 2016, Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated from sunset on December 24 to nightfall on January 1, 2017.  Because the Jewish calendar is based on the lunar rather than the solar year, the date of Hanukkah moves about on the calendar and can land anywhere between November 25th and December 26th.

Hanukkah commemorates the Jewish people’s successful rebellion against the Greeks in the Maccabean War in 162 BCE.  After the victory, a ritual re-dedication was to take place in temple.  Oil that was only expected to last one night instead lasted eight nights.  This was seen as miraculous, and to celebrate this miracle, Hanukkah began and has been celebrated for over 1500 years.

Iconic of Hanukkah is the menorah, a nine branched candelabrum; on the first evening of Hanukkah one candle is lit and special prayers are said. On the second evening two candles are lit, and so on. The rest of the evening is spent singing songs, playing games, telling Hanukkah stories, and enjoying special holiday foods.

Children may also celebrate Hanukkah by spinning the dreidel, Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (He), ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for “נס גדול היה שם” (Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – “a great miracle happened there”).

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