When is Chanukah *?
Also known as Chanukah or the Festival of Lights, the festival of Hanukkah is a holiday period, though it is not a national holiday.
Beginning on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, this holiday is observed for eight days in honour of the historic victory of the Maccabbees against religious oppression.
In Hebrew, Hanukkah means 'dedication' or 'consecration'. During the 2nd century BC, the Greek rulers of Antiochus had attempted to dissuade Jews away from Judaism and its traditions. The ain was to better integrate them into Greek culture. As part of these efforts, certain aspects of Jewish observance were outlawed, such as the study of Torah
While the attempts had proved successful, a band of Jews rebelled and openly revolted against the changes to their way of life. This small band of rebels waged a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Syrians. Antiochus sent thousands of soldiers to quell the rebellion, but the Maccabees managed to drive the Syrians from the land. In December, 164BC Jewish fighters entered Jerusalem. They found the Holy Temple in ruins and had been desecrated by the foreign troops.
In addition to commemorating a military victory, Hanukkah remembers the 'miracle of the oil'. After the victory, when the Maccabees came to rededicate the Temple, they discovered they only had one flask of oil left to relight the Menorah. Miraculously, this small flask lasted for eight days, until a new supply of oil was obtained.
Nowadays, Hanukkah features the tradition of lighting of a special Hanukkah menorah with nine branches, lighting a new candle each night of Hanukkah. The menorah has a ninth candle (the 'shamash') which is used to light the other candles.
Other customs include eating foods such as potato pancakes and jelly donuts; spinning a top with Hebrew letters on the sides known as the dreidel (pictured above), and giving money to children.
There are four letters on the side of a dreidel. They are 'nun, gimel, hei, shin'. Together they form an acronym for the message of Hanukkah: 'A great miracle happened there'.
*Like other Jewish holidays, Hanukkah will begin at sundown on the previous day.