Hanukkah is Jewish festival for family and friends to celebrate (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
Across the world, Jewish people are preparing for their significant religious holiday, Hanukkah.
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, spans eight nights and is marked with familial love and exchanging presents. Most notably, Hanukkah is marked by lighting eight candles.
Whilst Hanukkah’s dates move according to the Jewish calendar, it often coincides around with Christmas, sometimes falling in December.
But when is Hanukkah in 2021, and why is it celebrated?
When is Hanukkah?
In 2021, Hanukkah begins on the evening of Sunday 28 November and ends eight days later, on 6 December.
Hanukkah is observed on the 25th day of Kislev, a month on the Hebrew calendar which falls anytime between late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.
The Jewish calendar works based on the lunar cycle, with new months depending on the new moon, leading to the change in dates.
Why is Hanukkah celebrated?
Hanukkah traditionally spelt as “Chanukah”, commemorates the recovery of Jerusalem and rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt, a Jewish rebellion.
The Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire was a civil war between two Jewish camps. It was between those who had assimilated into Creek and Syrian customs and those adamant to impose Jewish laws and traditions.
The traditionalists won and gained control of Israel, leading to the rededication of the Second Temple, a Jewish holy temple standing on the Temple Mount between 516 BCE and 70CE.
After winning the land, the Second Temple was cleansed and a new altar and menorah were rebuilt, after its prior destruction.
The Menorah, a candlestick with seven holders to symbolise the seven days of creation, was meant to be burning every night.
However, it was during this time the traditional Jewish people believed to have seen a miracle. There was only enough untainted olive oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for one day; however, the flames flickered for eight nights.
This miracle inspired Hanukkah, the eight-day festival, where the Hanukkah candle, known as the Hanukkah menorah is lit every night.
The Hanukkah menorah has nine holders - one for each of the eight nights and a shamash (helper) to light the other eight.
How is Hanukkah celebrated and what are the traditions behind it?
Hanukkah is a joyous festival and is celebrated by family gatherings, gifting presents and prayers and songs.
The most important tradition of Hanukkah is lighting the menorah each evening. One candle is lit in the first evening and subsequently, each night that follows, another candle is lit, from left to right.
Initially, the menorah was kept outside but later bought inside to guard against any offending neighbours. Now it is traditional to see the menorah in the window of some homes.
Other traditions involve reading from the Scripture, the Torah, and some Psalms. Along with prayers offerings and blessings are given to God.
Deep-fried foods create a non-religious tradition, where latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (doughnuts) are fried in oil to resemble the miracle of Hanukkah.
Children often receive presents and money, known as a Hanukkah gelt, which sometimes comes in the form of chocolate coins. Often children play a game with a dreidel which is a four-sided spinning top, with the Hebrew symbols of nes, gadol, haya, sham, meaning “a great miracle happened here”.
How do you wish someone a Happy Hanukkah?
To give a festive greeting, you can just say a simple “Happy Hanukkah”. You can also wish them “Hanukkah Sameach” meaning happy Hanukkah in Hebrew.
Another way is “Chag Urim Sameach” which means Happy Festival of Lights.
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