Hanukkah (or Chanukah, if you prefer) is an eight-day Jewish religious festival that usually occurs in late November or early December. It commemorates the start of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire and the rededication of the Second Temple that took place in the 2nd century BC.
This is the strict definition of a holiday. In practice, as of 2022 in the US, Hanukkah is the “Festival of Lights”, a winter celebration marked by gift-giving, delicious food, candlelight and boozy games of dreidel (more on that below).
Religiously, Hanukkah is a comparatively minor holiday, not as important as the Jewish high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but it is a favorite among children, especially American children (probably because of the gifts). These days the holiday is celebrated in Jewish communities around the world, but Jews in America are the undisputed Hanukkah kings and queens.
When is Hanukkah this year?
The first day of Hanukkah 2022 is December 18. The last day is 26 December. score!
Why does Hanukkah fall on different dates every year?
While Hanukkah falls on different dates each year on the Gregorian calendar than you’re probably familiar with, it begins on the same day every year on the Hebrew calendar: the 25th of Kislev. The Hebrew calendar is based on the moon, so Hanukkah falls on the 25th day of the new moon, which marks the beginning of the month of Kislev.
The Origins of Hanukkah: A Hebrew Revival Brought to You by Cincinnati Rabbis
There are two ways of thinking about the origins of the Festival of Lights. You could say that Hanukkah began around 200 BCE when Greek leaders prevented Jews from practicing their religion, causing the Jewish rebels the Maccabees to stand in defiance. Or you could say that Hanukkah originated in Cincinnati.
A few hundred years ago, there is no record of anyone celebrating Hanukkah—perhaps it was done, but it was not notable enough for anyone to record it. This all changed in the mid to late 1800s, when a couple of Cincinnati rabbis, Isaac M. Wise and Max Lilienthal put Hanukkah on the holiday map. He popularized and promoted the holiday, introducing the celebration of Hanukkah to his synagogues and publicizing it in national Jewish publications.
Wise and Lilienthal were leaders of Reform Judaism, a more modern, less orthodox form of the religion, and the holidays they popularized reflect that set of values. This was to help Jewish children in America honor their heritage by presenting an exciting, relatable historical event featuring Jewish heroes. It was also meant to be like Christmas – a family holiday that’s fun.
Lilienthal noted the growing popularity of Christmas celebrations in America in the 1800s, and was influenced by the way Christian churches used secular aspects of the holiday to teach their faith, so he designed non-religious Christmas gifts. Borrowed to give and light nature. Celebrate and paint them in Jewish colors. Thus was born Hanukkah.
“We must also do something, to revive our children… [They] A grand and glorious Chanukah celebration would be better than any Christmas celebration. Lilienthal wrote in 1876,
Hanukkah Traditions: You’ve Been Wrong About the Menorah Your Whole Life
The main event of Hanukkah in most of the celebrants is the lighting of the candles before dinner, one more for each successive night of the festival. When the Maccabees rebuilt the Temple in olden times, they re-lit the menorahs—candle holders for eight candles—but they only had enough oil to keep the candles burning for one night (or so the story goes). Miraculously, the light kept burning for eight nights.
Technically, most people don’t light a menorah on Hanukkah. There are eight lights in the menorah. Hanukkah candles are usually in a “Hanukkah” consisting of nine: the eight main candles and the auxiliary candle that lights them all.
In terms of food, you can eat whatever you want, but fried foods, especially latkes (fried potato pancakes), are popular and delicious, especially if served with sour cream and/or apple sauce. The jelly donuts are another favorite.
Many also give Hanukkah-themed gifts – one for each night.
Why aren’t there any classic Hanukkah songs like Christmas standards?
Hanukkah carols never really caught on because Jewish songwriters of the Golden Age wrote “Let It Snow,” “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” “Silver Bells,” “White Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and I was busy. Almost every other Christmas song that isn’t a hymn.
“Driedel, dreidel, dreidel—you’re the worst game ever”
Many households break out the dreidel (the spinning top with Hebrew letters on it) and play with it for five minutes after dinner until everyone gets bored. the dreidel is worst game, but here’s how it’s played: Everyone leads, usually with a piece of chocolate, and you spin the dreidel until someone hits the jackpot. All luck no skill.
It is widely believed that the dreidel is the most popular Hanukkah game, but this is a fallacy. The most popular (and best) Hanukkah game is “guess which candle will blow out last,” a much more nuanced and exciting game played by everyone who’s ever lit a menorah (sorry) before dinner. , a Hanukkah) is fired. Do darker candles burn faster than lighter candles? Does placement matter? How about wick-length? All these as well as many more must be considered if you are going to master this exciting sport.
Is it okay to celebrate Hanukkah if you’re not Jewish?
You can celebrate any holiday you want. It’s generally seen as a “fun” holiday, and while I don’t speak for anyone else, I can’t imagine that many Jews would be offended if you wanted to light some candles and watch 8 crazy nights To capture some of that Hanukkah magic. Some of the holiday’s traditions were partially inspired by Christmas anyway, and much of Christmas itself was appropriated from pagan solstice celebrations, so go nuts—it’s the holidays.