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Chanukkah is a festival of lights!

Why do we celebrate Chanukkah?

Chanukkah is celebrated in memory of the victory of the Jewish rebellion against the Syrian-Greek suppression.

The story of Chanukkah begins in the reign of Alexander the Great. Alexander conquered Syria, Egypt and Palestine, but allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions and retain a certain degree of autonomy.

More than a century later, in the 2nd century BC, during the time of the Second Temple, a successor of Alexander, Antiochus IV was in control of the region. He began to oppress the Jews severely, placing a Hellenistic priest in the Temple, massacring Jews, prohibiting the practice of the Jewish religion, and desecrating the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of pigs on the altar.

Two groups opposed Antiochus: a basically nationalistic group led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his five sons and a religious traditionalist group known as the Chasidim, the forerunners of the Pharisees (no direct connection to the modern movement known as Chasidism). They joined forces in a revolt against both the assimilation of the Hellenistic Jews and oppression by the Selucid Greek government. When Mattityahu died he was succeeded by his son, Yehudah Macabee.

Yehuda led the Jews to victory, driving the Greeks out of Jerusalem. The revolution succeeded and the Temple was rededicated. The Jews were then able to clean the Temple and to resume the Temple service. This took place on the 25th of Kislev.

What is the Miracle of Chanukkah?

When Temple was rededicated the famous "Miracle of Chanukkah" took place. Part of the Temple service is the lighting of the Menorah (candelabrum) or sometimes called as chanukkiah. This requires ritually pure olive oil. There was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks. Actually only one small container was found which had enough oil to last for just one day. Since it would take eight days to get the required new oil this was a catastrophe. The Jews used this oil for the first day and it miraculously it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle.

What does Chanukkah mean?

It literally means 'dedication' and is the appropriate name of the Festival which commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple.

What are the Traditions of Chanukkah?

1. Lighting the Chanukkah Menorah

Hanukkah Menorah - click on the picture for moreThe only religious observance related to the holiday is the lighting of candles. The candles are arranged in a candelabrum called a menorah (or sometimes called a chanukkiah) that holds nine candles: one for each night, plus a shammus (shamash) at a different height.
On the first night, one candle is placed at the far right. The shammus candle is lit and three berakhot (blessings) are recited. After reciting the blessings, the first candle is then lit using the shammus candle, and the shammus candle is placed in its holder. The candles are allowed to burn out on their own after a minimum of 1/2 hour. Each night, another candle is added from right to left. On the eighth night, all nine candles are lit.

A Menorah can be made from any material, but metal is best and silver is ideal. All oils and candles are acceptable for the Chanukkah Menorah. Nevertheless, olive oil is the best. The time for lighting the Menorah is at nightfall, when the stars come out.

To buy Chanukkah Menorah from Israel please click HERE.

2. Playing 'Dreidel'.

Another tradition of the holiday is playing dreidel. A dreidel is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters on each side. These letters stand for the sentence: "Nes Gadol Haya Sham", which means "A Great Miracle Happened There". Actually, it stands for the Yiddish words nit (nothing), gantz (all), halb (half) and shtell (put), which are the rules of the game! The rules of the game are simple: each participant puts an amount of the playing unit into the kitty; each player takes a turn spinning the dreidel, and depending on which letter falls, that player either wins the whole kitty, half of it, none of it, or has to add a certain amount to it. The unit of play does not have to be money. It can be nuts, candy, poker chips, monopoly money or the like.

3. Eating fried foods.

It is traditional to eat fried foods on Chanukkah because of the significance of oil to the holiday. Some of the most common foods eaten on Chanukkah are latkes (potato pancakes) and the Sufgania (doughnut).

4. What is "gelt"?

The only traditional gift of the holiday is "gelt", small amount of money.
Gift-giving is not a traditional part of the holiday, but has been added in places where Jews had a lot of contact with Christians, as a way of dealing with children's jealousy of their Christian friends.
It is extremely unusual for Jews to give Chanukkah gifts to anyone other than their own young children.

When is Chanukkah?

Chanukkah is always from 25th Kislev until 3rd Tevet.

Chanukkah will begin on the following days of the Gregorian calendar.

December 05 (Erev Hag) - 12, 2007 ( 5768 )

Remember that all holidays begin at sundown on the date before the date specified here.

To send Hanukka Virtual Musical Greeting Card click HERE.


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