Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabees Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah (Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה, usually spelled חנוכה pronounced [χanuˈka] in Modern Hebrew, also romanized as Chanukah or Chanuka), is observed for eight nights and days. It starts on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.
Did you know these facts?
- Hanukkah is not considered a significant religious holiday when compared to other Jewish holidays.
- The menorah holds nine candles. In the center stands the shamus or servant. The shamus lights the 8 other Hanukkah candles.
- The Hanukkah candles are strictly for pleasure. They are not to be utilized for any useful or productive purpose. The shamus is available, so the Hanukkah candles aren’t accidentally used to light a fire in the fireplace or another useful purpose.
- Gift giving is not traditionally a part of the Hanukkah holiday.
- Playing dreidel is a gambling game popular during the Hanukkah holiday.
- The famous dreidel, or four-sided spinning top, was invented as a distraction.
- The game of dreidel was inspired by a German game played at Christmastime, which is itself an imitation of an English and Irish one.
- Hanukkah has its own set of customary foods. To celebrate the holiday, Jews fry foods in oil to acknowledge the miracle of the oil. They may chow down on latkes (potato pancakes), sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), kugel (noodle or potato casserole), and gelt (chocolate coins).
- The Hebrew word Hanukkah means dedication, and the holiday is colloquially called the Festival of Lights. But you’ve probably seen the word spelled a variety of ways, from Hanukkah to Hannuka to Chanukah. Because the word is transliterated from Hebrew, there’s not an exact English equivalent for the sounds made by the Hebrew characters.
- Harry Truman was the first president to celebrate Hanukkah at the White House
- Israelis devour some 24 million sufganiyot during the eight-day holiday – adding up to 10.8 billion calories.
- The word “hanukkah” comes from the Hebrew word “Hinuch,” or “to teach.”
- When you eat holiday treats fried in oil, you can’t really expect for them to be fat-free. The average 100-gram sufganiyah (doughnut) packs 400-600 calories. One potato latke has about 150 calories, svinge (a Moroccan cruller) 350-442 calories, and chocolate coins 85 calories each.
- Israeli author/politician Avram Burg is said to have the largest dreidel collection in the world, counting more than 3,500.
- The first Hanukkah celebration was actually a delayed Sukkot observance.
- The books of Maccabees, which tell the story of Hanukkah, weren’t included in the Hebrew Bible – but they are in the Catholic Bible.
- Marilyn Monroe owned a music-playing Hanukkah menorah