Read about History of Hanukkah / Chanukah Festival Celebration , history of Hanukkah Miracle and what is the story of Hanukkah Festival and traditions in this article.
Hanukkah (also known as Chanukah) is celebrated every year in November or December to commemorate the rededication during the second century B.C of the second temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt.
Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days. There are nine candles on Hanukkah menorah, one candle for each night. People celebrate Hanukkah with their families, relatives, friends, brother etc.
What does Hanukkah mean ?
Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew. The celebration beings on 25th Day of Jewish month of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and it usually falls in Nov or December.
Hanukkah is also known as Festival of lights. The festival is celebrated with lighting of the menorah, making traditional foods, game and gifts.
History of Hanukkah – Story :
Over 2500 years ago in 168 B.C.E Jewish Temple was captured by Syrian Greek soldiers and Jewish people were asked to worship the god Zeus. Jewish people were upset with this and afraid too. In 167 B.C.E. the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus made the observance of Judaism an offense punishable by death. All Jews were ordered to worship Greek gods.
Jewish People resistance to Syrian Greek rule begin in Modiin village, which is very near to Jerusalem. Syrian Greek Soldiers gathered in village and asked the people to bow to an idol representing one of the Greek Gods, then eat the flesh of a pig – both practices that are forbidden to Jews.
A priest Mattathias was ordered to do so by Greek Officer, which was refused by Mattathias. When another villager stepped forward and offered to cooperate on Mattathias’ behalf, the High Priest became outraged. He drew his sword and killed the villager, then turned on the Greek officer and killed him too. His five sons and the other villagers then attacked the remaining soldiers, killing all of them.
Matthathias and his family took refugee in the mountains and were joined by other Jews. The rebels who came to be known as Maccabees regained control over their territory after a series of struggles with Syrian Greek Soldiers.
After regaining control over Jerusalem, they returned to the temple and Judah maccabee called his followers to purify and cleaninse the temple and rebuild its altar by burning ritual oil in the Temple’s menorah for eight days.
Hanukkah Miracle :
Now there was not enough oil left to to lit the menorah for eight days there was hardly worth one day oil left in temple.
They lit the menorah and what they see was miracle..the small amount of oil lasted for full eight days.
This wonderful miracle inspired the celebration of Hanukkah as eight day festival every year. One candle is lit on the first night of Hanukkah, two on the second, and so on, until eight candles are lit.
Hanukkah Traditions :
Hanukkah festival is celebrated according to different tradition, it has both religious and secular roots. There are some traditions that are almost universally practiced.
Lighting the Menorah
It is unique tradition of celebration of Hanukkah Festival. Menorah is centerpiece of Hanukkah celebration. It is also known as “hanukkiah”, a candelabra that holds nine candles. Eight candles represent the number of days that the Temple lantern blazed and ninth, the shamash, is a helper candle used to light the others. People lit the first candle on first day, two on second day and so on.
It is tradition to play with dreidels (spinning tops) during the holiday, even wage gambling games in which players guess which side of the top will fall face up. The Hebrew characters carved into the four sides of today’s dreidels are the first letters of “Ness Gadol Haya Po/Sham,” which roughly translates to “Great Miracle Happened Here/There” (depending on whether you’re in Israel or not).
Eating fried foods
Because Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes and sufganiyot during the holiday. Latkes are pancakes made out of potatoes and onions, which are fried in oil and then served with applesauce. Sufganiyot (singular: sufganiyah) are jelly-filled donuts that are fried and sometimes dusted with confectioners’ sugar before eating.
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