December 5


When is Hanukkah 2023?

December 5, 2023

Vol. 103 No. 49

Hanukkah begins the evening of Thursday, December 7th and ends the evening of Friday, December 15th. Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights.  The Hebrew word Hanukkah means “dedication,” as the holiday commemorates the Jewish people’s rededication to the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Hanukkah Story

According to Jewish tradition, after the Jews won back Jerusalem, over 2,000 years ago, they found that the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. They began to clean it up and wanted to light the menorah (a seven-branched candelabrum used to light the Temple) to give sacred light to the restoration project. However, the oil used in the temple had to be a special, purified oil, and the Jews couldn’t find any. They finally found a tiny bit of oil that would be enough for one day. It miraculously lasted for eight days, which was just enough time to purify more oil to keep the Temple lit.

How is Hanukkah Celebrated and Why for Eight days?

Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days because of the Hanukkah miracle, in which that tiny bit of oil lasted for eight entire days and provided light to people restoring the Temple.

On the eight nights of Hanukkah, Jews light the menorah, adding an extra candle each night until there are eight candles on the last night.

Jewish people celebrate by eating foods cooked in oil because of the miracle that happened with the oil. The two most common foods are potato latkes, which are fried potato pancakes, and sufganiyot, which are fried jelly doughnuts.

A fun activity during Hanukkah is playing dreidel.

Playing Dreidel

Dreidels are spinning tops.  On each of its four sides is inscribed a Hebrew letter —nungimelhe and shin — which together stand for Nes gadol haya sham, meaning “A great miracle happened there.”

Greek law prohibited the Jews from studying the Torah (the Old Testament), so they had secret gatherings to study together.  If a soldier walked by and peeked in the windows, they would quickly shut their books and spin the tops so it would look like they were just playing a game.

The dreidel is spun and depending on which letter is on top when it lands, the player’s currency, or gelt, is added to or taken from the pot. Nun means the player does nothing; gimel means the player gets everything; he means the player gets half; and shin means the player adds to the pot.

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