Click HERE to view coverage of our 2018 Hanukkah party in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Hanukkah—The Festival of Lights – The Festival of Rededication

Although it is a late addition to the Jewish liturgical calendar, the eight-day festival of Hanukkah has become a beloved and joyous holiday. It is also known as the Festival of Lights and takes place in December, at the time of year when the days are shortest in the northern hemisphere. 

Beginning in 167 BCE, the Jews of Judea rose up in revolt against the oppression of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes  of the Seleucid Empire. The military leader of the first phase of the revolt was Judah the Maccabee, the eldest son of the priest Mattityahu (Mattathias). In the autumn of 164, Judah and his followers were able to capture the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been turned into a pagan shrine. They cleansed it and rededicated it to Israel’s God. This event was observed in an eight-day celebration, which was patterned on Sukkot, the autumn festival of huts.

In order to engage children in celebrating this victory, we teach children the “miracle” of Hanukkah.  After this momentous victory, it was decided to light the Temple Menorah even though there was a very little bit of pure oil available.  The oil should have burned for one night, but the “Miracle of Hanukkah” is that the tiny bit of oil kept flickering for eight days and nights.  Hence, each year at Hanukkah, Jews light the menorah for eight nights.

In addition to lighting the menorah, Jews also eat special foods, such as potato pancakes (latkes), jelly donuts and other fried treats to remind us of the oil used for the rededication.  We also, play games with dreidels (spinning top, read stories and create Hanukkah cards, menorah, dreidels and other symbols of the holiday.

It is not customary to exchange presents during Hanukkah; this is a practice established to try to compete with Christmas.  Hanukkah is a wonderful experiential holiday for both children and adults.