What is Hanukkah?


Many of you may be familiar with the upcoming Jewish Holiday of Hanukkah. This holiday, also known as the festival of lights, is celebrated for 8 days. This year Hanukkah begins sundown on Sunday, November 28th and lasts until sundown on Monday, December 6th. Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem and the miracle of how one day’s worth of oil lasted 8 nights. 

There are many traditions of Hanukkah but the most important one is the lighting of the Hanukiah, otherwise known as a menorah. The menorah has 8 branches plus an additional holder for the shammash, which is used to light all the other candles. On each one of the 8 nights, a candle is added to the menorah from right to left. We light them from left to right while reciting the blessings for the Hanukkah candles. Other traditions include festive meals with foods like sufganiyot (donuts), latkes (potato pancakes) and other foods fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of oil. Gifts are also given to children, and sometimes the traditional Hanukkah game of dreidel is played. Dreidel is played with a spinning top that has 4 sides, a Hebrew letter on each. Typically, this game uses gelt which are chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil and depending on the letter the dreidel lands on, you either take all, take half, share or receive nothing. A lot of Hanukkah’s traditions are what makes this holiday so special for many people.

In Israel, Hanukkah is a national holiday where students put on plays, sing songs and have parties. Schools are also closed for the eight-day festival. Hanukkah doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves, and public schools in the U.S. remain open during Hanukkah. Many people find it unfair that school doesn’t have a break for Hanukkah like Christmas does. Even though Christmas is a more common national holiday, the holiday of Hanukkah should get the same acknowledgement.