The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is upon us, but many of you will likely be asking: “What exactly is Hanukkah?” the holiday has a few misconceptions around it – such as the belief that it is the Jewish version of Christmas – and is often misunderstood in general. We’ve collected a few interesting facts about the holiday which we believe will help you be a little more informed about this Jewish tradition and give you a good overview of the major points.
Eight days of Hanukkah
The date of Hanukkah
Hanukkah? Channukah? Or Hannuka?.
The food of Hanukkah
A time for study and reward
The recent history of Hanukkah
The connection to Christmas
The origin of the dreidel
Dreidels (Four-sided spinning tops with Hebrew letters on them) were originally used as a cover to escape punishment during times of religious persecution. When Greek soldiers raided places they suspected of Jewish worship, the students would have a dreidel ready to pull and start playing – pretending they were merely gambling. Games played with dreidels are still a tradition during Hanukkah to this day.
We hope this article has taught you a few things about Hanukkah and perhaps a few other Jewish traditions. And to our readers who celebrate this tradition, we wish you a Happy Hanukkah and we hope you’ll stop by in our comments section to share your stories of this celebration and share any other interesting facts that we might have missed.
- Funology – Facts about hanukkah http://www.funology.com/facts-about-hanukkah/
- Aish.com - Fascinating facts about Hanukkah http://www.aish.com/h/c/mm/8-Fascinating-facts-about-Hanukkah.html
- Mentalfloss – Festive facts about hanukkahhttp://mentalfloss.com/article/89789/11-festive-facts-about-hanukkah
- Interesting facts about hanukkahhttps://www.worldofjudaica.com/oyvey/jewish-occasions/8-most-interesting-facts-about-hanukkah
You may also like...
“So...” I hear you ask “Why eight facts about Hanukkah? Don’t you know all the cool websites do top five or ten style articles?”
Well, the numbering of this article is in direct reference to the fact that Hanukkah is celebrated over eight days. The holiday is celebrated over eight days because of the story of Hanukkah itself – around 200 BC, after years of religious persecution from the Greeks in Syria, the Maccabee Jews revolted and reclaimed their holy temple in Jerusalem. However, they found the temple only had enough oil within to light the Menorah for a single night of warmth and light. But miraculously, the oil burned for the full eight days they needed for reinforcements and supplies to arrive.
As such, the light of the Menorah (A special nine branched candelabra) is the most important of Hanukkah traditions. On the first day, the centre and right-most candle are lit. On each successive day, another candle is lit until all nine are lit on the final day.
So exactly when is Hanukkah? Well, it Hanukkah dates change each year. Hanukkah has no set date on the Gregorian calendar, as the holiday is based on the Hebrew calendar, starting on the 25th of Kislev and lasting to the 2nd of Tevet. The date Hanukkah takes place on the Gregorian calendar varies quite a bit; for example Hanukkah 2017 will take place between the 12th and 20th of December, but just in 2016 it was between the 24th of December and 1st January. Sometimes Hanukkah more closely coincides with Thanksgiving than Christmas.
Don’t worry about the correct spelling of Hanukkah – technically there isn’t one. The meaning of Hanukkah in Hebrew is “dedication” as the holiday celebrates the dedication of the Maccabees, but there isn’t a direct translation from the original Hebrew that fits the English language perfectly. Chanukah and Hannuka are two other common spellings, but the most commonly accepted is Hanukkah and as such we’ll be using that throughout the majority of the article.
Another Hanukkah celebration is the eating of food fried in oil. Jewish families eat Latkes (potato pancakes), sufganiots (jelly donuts) and other foods fried in oil to celebrate the festival of lights and the miracle of oil. Around 17.5 million oily sufganiot donuts are eaten in Israel alone during Hanukkah.
It is tradition for children to study the Torah (A Jewish holy text) during Hanukkah. Study of the Torah is especially encouraged during this time, with children often rewarded with gifts for their hard work, or money.
Saving bonds and checks are commonly given gifts during Hanukkah. Chocolate coins wrapped in golden foil are also originally a traditional Hanukkah gift, before becoming a common Christmas gift as well. They were originally called chocolate gelt, as gelt is the Yiddish term for money.
Until recently, Hanukkah was not the most important Jewish holiday, with other holidays such Passover and Rosh Hashanah being regarded as more important – Hanukkah is not even mentioned in the original Torah. But because Hanukkah usually (not always!) occurs in December around the time of Christmas, many Jews began to place more emphasis on the holiday so they could celebrate the season alongside their non-Jewish friends, albeit for different reasons.
There isn’t one. Despite the above, Hanukkah is NOT a Jewish counterpart to Christmas as is sometimes believed. It is simply a coincidence that the two holidays happen within a similar timeframe (Remember the dates of the holidays are based on two entirely separate calendars) and the gift-giving aspects of each holiday arose from two entirely separate sets of circumstances.