Hanukkah Facts

Hanukkah Facts
Hanukkah is an eight day and night Jewish festival to celebrate the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which took place in the 2nd century B.C. The Greek-Syrian ruler Antiochus IV had tried to force Greek culture on the Jews in Judea (Israel). This rededication of the Holy Temple took place after the Maccabees (Jewish religious rebels) reclaimed the temple. Hanukkah is the Hebrew word for dedication. Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of Kislev, which can occur any time from late November to late December, depending on the Hebrew calendar. To celebrate Hanukkah, a nine-branch candelabrum called a Menorah, is lit one candle each night until the eighth night. The additional branch and light is meant to have a light available for other uses than meditating or publicizing.
Interesting Hanukkah Facts:
The celebration lasts for eight days for historical reasons. When the Maccabees reclaimed the Holy Temple, there was enough purified oil to keep the temple lit for only one day. By some miracle, the light burned for eight days.
The ninth candle of the Menorah is usually in the center of the Menorah and is used to light the other eight candles each night.
The Menorah is also known as a Hanukiah. Although candles are used today to light the Menorah, they used to use oil.
The candles are placed in the Menorah from right to left. They are lit from left to right.
Families eat potato pancakes (latkes) and sweet, jelly-filled donuts (Sufganiyot) and other foods fried in oil during Hanukkah. This practice of frying in oil is in remembrance of the sacred oil.
Hanukkah is also a time when children are encouraged to study their Torah. They are rewarded for their studies during Hanukkah with presents and money.
Gelt is the Yiddish word for money. Today the children receive checks, bonds and small chocolate coins as their gelt.
The Dreidel is a popular toy during Hanukkah. This is a four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side. The four letters are shin, hay, gimel and nun. These letters mean Nes Gadol Hayah Sham in Hebrew, which means a great miracle happened there.
The dreidel game is played with candy. The person who has all the candy in the end is the winner.
The entire Hallel, psalms of praise, is recited during the eight days of Hanukkah.
The passage 'Al Hanissim' which expresses thanks to God for all the miracles during Hanukkah is added into prayer.
Originally the Menorah was placed outside the front door, but today it is mostly displayed in the window.
The last night of Hanukkah in Germany was once very special. Great bonfires were lit from the leftover oil and wicks and people danced and sang around the fire. The festivities often lasted until the wee hours of the morning.
Children in Yemen used to go from house to house with a tin to collect wicks for their Menorah.
Hanukkah is similar to Christmas in that it is a time when families gather, share blessings, food, music and traditions. Both holidays are rooted in religious beliefs.

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