Saturday 24 December 2016

Hanukkah: All You Need To Know


Hanukkah is the time of year Jewish people start lighting candles, spinning dreidels and eating deep-fried foods.

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah, is the Jewish Festival Of Lights. The date it’s celebrated changes each year, depending on the Western calendar, but it usually falls in November or December.

The celebration dates back to two centuries before Christianity began, and lasts for eight days.

The word ‘Hanukkah’ means dedication, and honours one of the greatest miracles in Jewish history.

When is Hanukkah this year?

Hanukkah 2016 begins in the evening on Saturday 24 December and ends on the evening of Sunday 1 January.

What’s the story behind Hanukkah?

The festival is a time for Jewish people to remember their victory in a battle against the Greeks over 2,000 years ago to practice their religion without restriction.

The Greeks had put a stop to all religious practices for the Jews, and King Antiochus tried to make Jewish people bow down before a statue of him that had been placed in the Jewish temple, praying to Greek gods.

However, they refused, as the Ten Commandments forbid Jews to worship statues or idols.

A small group called the Maccabees fought against it, and after a three-year war, they were able to recapture Jerusalem from the Syrians. However, the Jewish temple was destroyed in the process.

After cleaning and repairing it, they celebrated their victory by lighting an oil lamp, or Menorah, which symbolised God’s presence.

Although there was only enough oil to burn the candle in the temple for one day, it somehow managed to keep going for eight days. The Menorah is one of the oldest symbols in Judaism.

How is Hanukkah celebrated today?

One candle on the Hanukiah, a candelabra with nine candles, is lit each day by families, either after sunset or at night.

The lighting of each candle represents the original oil lamp burning for eight days in the temple. The ninth candle is out of place, usually higher than the others, and is lit first, then used to light all the others.

Some families also give each other a small present on each night. Gift-giving has risen in popularity due to the festival’s proximity to Christmas.

An old European custom is to give Hanukkah gelt (coins or money), but a wider range of presents have been exchanged since the 1950s.

***Rosh Hashanah 2016: All you need to know

A traditional game played by children and adults involves a dreidel, a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side.

Depending on which side the dreidel lands on when spun, players give or take pieces from a centre pot.

What do Jewish people eat at Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is the time for traditional and celebratory food, with most dishes being deep fried in oil to represent the miraculous eight-day burning of the Menorah.

Latkes, a kind of potato fritter resembling pancakes, can be topped with sweet and savoury toppings, ranging from cherries and apples to potatoes and carrots.

A sufganiyah is a deep-fried jam or custard filled doughnut topped with powdered sugar, traditionally eaten in Israel but consumed around the world during Hanukkah due to the fact they are cooked in oil.



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