What the Jewish festival of lights is all about…

 
It’s the start of the eight-day festival of lights today and that means more than a week’s worth of celebrations. That means getting the family together, exchanging presents and lighting eight very special candles. Here is everything you need to know…
When is Hanukkah and how long does it last?  In the Jewish calendar Hanukkah is on the 25th day of Kislev. That means in the Gregorian calendar the date changes but typically falls between the end of November and mid-December. This year – 2017 – that means Hanukkah begins on December 12 and ends on December 20. The festival lasts for eight days in total – marking the miracle with the temple oil.
What is Hanukkah all about? Hanukkah – known in Hebrew as Chanukah – is an eight-day festival marking a period more than 2,500 years ago when the Jewish holy temple was seized by Syrian-Greek forces. The Syrian-Greek King Antiochus then gave Jews an impossible choice – renounce Judaism or die. That’s when a small group of Jewish rebels, called the Maccabees fought back and were able to recapture the holy temple. The Maccabees were led by the Jewish priest Matisyahu and his son Judah. But when they recaptured the temple they were horrified to discover that there was only enough oil left to keep the holy light, a flame which was never meant to go out, lit for one more day. The miracle that is celebrated on Hanukkah was that somehow the flame stayed alight for eight more days. which was long enough for the to make another batch of oil. To this day, that miracle is celebrated with a traditional ‘lighting candles for eight days’ during the festival. And – apart from exchanging presents – Hanukkah isn’t anything like Christmas.
How do people celebrate Hanukkah? Every night (except Friday when the Sabbath candle is lit first) during Hanukkah families light a candle after sunset and give presents to one another. It’s quite the celebration and often a good excuse for a bit of a party. Feasting is pretty typical too with the tradition being to eat food that has been fried in oil to pay tribute the miracle of the everlasting oil. Foods typically include doughnuts and latkes, which is a special potato pancake. The candle that is lit each night for Hanukkah isn’t just any candle.  The candelabra it is held in is called a Menorah, which has nine candle holders. That is one candle for each day of the festival and a ninth candle that is used to light the others. This is called a Shamash. It’s traditional for the Menorah to be put in the window of each family’s home. The idea is that people who are passing outside can see the candles.

Happy Happy Hanukkah!

 

Join The Rye & Rye Brook Community

Stay up-to-date with what is happening in-and-around Rye & Rye Brook, NY with local events, community highlights, and exclusive deals.