Due to its proximity to Christmas, Hanukkah has become one of the most well-known Jewish holidays, despite being a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar.The winter holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the small band of Jewish Maccabees against the Syrian Greeks and the subsequent rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 167 BCE.
The exact dates of the Hanukkah celebration always changes from year to year due to the differences between the Hebrew (lunar) and the Gregorian calendars. The Gregorian calendar year is based on the 365 days it takes the earth to orbit the sun, while the Hebrew calendar year is based on the 354 days it takes for the moon to go through 12 complete cycles of roughly 29.5 days each. Like all Jewish holidays, Hanukkah begins at sundown the evening before the first day listed on the calendar.
As the Hanukkah story goes, there was enough oil in the lamp to reconsecrate the Temple for one night. The miracle is that the oil lasted for eight nights. Traditionally during the holiday, Jews make and eat foods fried in oil, such as potato latkes and sufganiyot, or jelly doughnuts, to commemorate the miracle.
The eight-day festival is a joyous occasion, seen in part as an authentically Jewish way to embrace the December holiday season and its traditions of kindling lights and giving gifts. Themes of Hanukkah include lessons in hope, light, dedication, and religious freedom.
For more information about Hanukkah or any Jewish holiday, go to myjewishlearning.com.