Hanukkah (Chanukah) is a holiday of great celebration for the Jewish people. It is a holy time of remembering and rejoicing.
Celebrated on eight consecutive days, it begins on the 25th day of the third month of the Jewish Calendar (Kislev), which is the approximate equivalent of December in the Gregorian calendar. This year the Hanukkah celebration begins on December 21st.
Also known as The Festival of Lights, Feast of Dedication and The Feast of the Maccabees it commemorates when the Maccabees defeated the Greeks.
The Greeks had defiled the Jewish holy oils, but one jar with the seal of the High Priest still intact was discovered.
Although there was only enough oil for one day a miracle occurred and the oil burned for eight days. Hence, the eight day celebration of praise and thanksgiving.
One of the main focal points of the celebration is the lighting of candles in the menorah; one on the first night two on the second and so on until all eight are lit. Blessings are said each night as the new candles are lit.
Hanukkah is a happy time. Children usually receive small gifts or money after the candle is lit in the evening. Traditionally, it is only at Hanukkah time that games of chance are allowed.
Hanukkah recipes are sweet and delicious. Fried foods are used to commemorate the miracle of the oil. Often fried doughnuts and potato latkes are part of a meal. Fasting is not permitted during this time; it is a time of plenty - not denial.
Along with lighting of the menorah, playing games and eating special foods, there are also Hanukkah songs of commemoration. All of the traditions of Hanukkah are meant to remind the Jewish people of the blessing they received so many thousands of years ago.