In Hebrew, Hanukkah translates to "dedication." Hanukkah celebrates when the Maccabean Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Second Temple in the second century BCE
Hanukkah is commonly known as the Festival of Lights and is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games, and gifts across the span of eight nights.
Here are a few interesting facts about the holiday:
- The story of Hanukkah is not found in the Torah because the events that inspired the holiday occurred after it was written. It does, however, appear in the New Testament when Jesus attends a "Feast of Dedication."
- In Hebrew, the menorah is called hanukiah. Each night, a candle is added to the menorah after sundown, and the ninth candle, called the shamash ("helper"), is used to light the others.
- According to ancient texts about Judah Maccabee and the others who rededicated the Second Temple, the reason Hanukkah takes place over the span of eight nights is that even though there was only enough untainted oil to keep the menorah's candles burning for one night, it ended up burning for eight nights – commonly known as the Hanukkah miracle.
- Because of the Hanukkah miracle, most foods consumed during the holiday are fried in oil - including potato pancakes ( latkes ), jelly doughnuts ( sufganiyot ), apple fritters , and kugel.
- Harry Truman was the first president to celebrate Hanukkah at the White House.
- There is no wrong way to spell Hanukkah (Hannuka, Chanukah, Hanukah, Chanukkah)... The most common spelling is Hanukkah, but all the spellings are actually accurate because there is no way to translate the Hebrew sounds to English directly.
- Over 17.5 million jelly donuts are consumed in Israel throughout Hanukkah.
- The dreidel game is one of the most famous Hanukkah traditions and was created as a way for the Jews to study the Torah and learn Hebrew after Greek King Antiochus IV outlawed Jewish religious worship in 175 BCE
- Gifts for Hanukkah only recently became a tradition as Christmas became more popular. Before then, people gave money to one another.
- Hanukkah is not the most important Jewish holiday - Passover and Rosh Hashanah are more significant for the Jewish people.
Although Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday, it holds a lot of cultural significance. Jewish holidays follow a lunar calendar, so the holiday dates change year to year but typically tend to fall in December. Some traditions have grown and changed with the popularity of Christmas, but its meaning and teachings remind us of the miracles that can happen. And just like Christmas and other holidays around this time of year, it's about good food and family for those who celebrate. Happy Hanukkah!