What is Hanukkah, how is it celebrated and how many days is it?
The celebration of Hanukkah 2023 began on Dec. 7 and will continue until next week. What’s the origin and meaning of this holiday, and how is it celebrated?
One of the most important holidays for the Jewish community has arrived. The Hanukkah celebration started on the evening of Dec. 7 and will continue until next Friday, Dec. 15. The holiday is also known as the Festival or Feast of Lights because one of its symbols is the menorah, which is a special candelabra that has nine bases.
Throughout this eight-day celebration, Jews carry out the lighting of candles: one per night, plus an extra one known as “the servant candle” or “shammash”; resulting in the lighting of nine candles in total. Why is this practice carried out and what is its meaning for the Jewish community?
What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration that commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred through the rebellion of the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire. The word Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew.
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Why is Hanukkah celebrated? Origin and meaning
The celebration of Hanukkah represents the “miracle of light,” which refers to the lighting of the menorah in the temple of the Hebrew God by Judah. A vial of oil was given for the light, enough to keep the flame alive for at least a day. However, the fire remained active for eight days, a period in which the Jews managed to produce more oil to keep the flame of the candlestick alive.
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The lighting of the nine candles represents the period that the candelabra lasted lit with a single vial of oil, while the extra candle is a type of offering that serves to commemorate the event. Therefore, the menorah is the symbol of the triumph of light over darkness.
How is Hanukkah celebrated?
In addition to lighting candles, which lies at the heart of the holiday, Jews also usually express good wishes and blessings for the other members of their community, and celebrate by singing and giving gifts. In this respect, this holiday is quite similar to the celebration of Christmas in Christian religions.
Another aspect that the holiday has in common with Christmas celebrations, is that food also plays an important role in the observance of Hanukkah.
People eat traditional fried foods to reflect the importance of oil to the roots of the holiday. These include doughnuts and potato pancakes which are both fried in oil. Cheese dishes are also often found on the table during the celebration.