Hannukah is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the liberation of the Jews from Syrian-Greek rule in 165 BC. It starts on November 27th and ends on December 2nd. The festival has its roots in Greece where it was celebrated as “The Festival of Lights” when people would light candles to honor Zeus, the God of Light. Hannukah celebrates another victory for Judaism as it became one of only two Jewish holidays mentioned by name in the Torah (the other being Shabbat).
The first candle is lit on the evening of Saturday, November 27th.
Each day an additional light is added and a blessing recited until all eight candles are glowing brightly by December 24th. Then one more light is added for each night leading up to the last night when two lights are needed to show how much stronger our faith has become in God’s promise that we will never be persecuted again.
During this time many Jews celebrate with foods like latkes (fried potato pancakes), jelly doughnuts, apple cakes, honey cake, and sufganiyot (jelly donuts). And they dress up their homes with Hannukah decorations such as colorful paper dreidels and menorahs, which are used to light the Hanukkah candles.
The eight-day festival of Hannukah celebrates the victory in 165 BC by a small group of Jewish people led by Judah Maccabee against Antiochus IV Epiphanes who was trying to impose Hellenistic culture and religion onto Judea during what is now called the “Maccabean Revolt.”
On each night one more candle is lit on the menorah until it has reached its full capacity with eight lights (seven for the show plus an extra).
There’s even a special prayer for when you first light your hanukiah: “Today we kindle these lights in remembrance that our Lord did not take away our spirit and give us oil to extinguish the flame, but instead He saved us from exile.”
The menorah is also a symbol of Hanukkah because it was used in the temple when they needed light during their rededication after being desecrated by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
When you’re done lighting your hanukiah for that night, there’s a poem: “Night has fallen; we are alone here with our thoughts as words come easily enough without noise or clamoring . . . all I want now is peace so please take my heart and let me sleep.”
It should be noted that while these may seem like prosaic clichés on paper, reciting them is not a matter of rote memorization.
To understand the true power of Hannukah, we must look at it in its full context–as an event that celebrates religious freedom and independence from governmental interference.
This festival has roots deep into history when Jews were enslaved by foreign conquerors or denied entry to their holy land for centuries; as they celebrated Hanukkah, they kept alive their hope for eventual redemption.
So let’s light up those menorahs this year with joy! Share your hanukiah posts on Instagram and tag #hannukah2016 so everyone can see how you’re celebrating our fullest meaning of life!
This year, the festival of lights is coming to a close. We eat latkes and play with dreidels in the celebration that while these may seem like prosaic clichés on paper, reciting them is not a matter of rote memorization.
As Jews were enslaved by foreign conquerors or denied entry to their holy land for centuries; as they celebrated Hanukkah, they kept alive their hope for eventual redemption. So let’s light up those menorahs this year with joy! Share your hanukiah posts on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #Festivallights2016.
Sharing our celebration of Hannukah will help remind others how we celebrate it–by lighting candles in commemoration of when Judas Maccabeus led a revolt against King Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ attempt to forcibly Hellenize Jewish people in 167 BC–and all that represents religious freedom and hope.