Chanukah (or Hanukkah) begins on the 12th of December this year, and though it’s a somewhat minor Jewish holiday, its importance has been magnified by that other December based holiday, Christmas. Nonetheless, Chanukah is now certainly one of the more famous Jewish holidays and is a welcome alternative to dive into compared to our well-known Christianity-based holiday.
The ‘Festival of lights’ lasts up to eight days and falls on the 25th of Kislev, of the Hebrew calendar. The word is pronounced with that stereotypical, slightly guttural ‘kh’ sound, ‘kha-nu-ka’. According to Hebrew scripture, at a time when the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks) whom were keen on forcing their views and beliefs upon all under their domain, A small band of faithful Jews’ led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated the mighty Seleucid army and reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated to the service of their God. When these Jews went to light the Temple’s seven branched candelabrum, the Menorah, they found a single container of oil that would only last the day, however the container lasted 8 days and was considered a miracle.
The most important aspect of the festival is the Menorah lighting. Each day an additional candle is lit, with blessings recited beforehand and traditional songs performed afterwards. Since oil is such an important part of this festival, many foods are fried in the substance such as latke, a potato pancake and sufganya, a type of doughnut. All of these aspects underline the beliefs behind Chanukah, standing up for what you believe is right as those faithful Jews did, that they believed that God can light the way (represented by the flames of the Menorah), and that you should be proud of what you believe in.