A Hanukkah or Chanukah is an eight day celebration held by the Jewish community to commemorate the rededication of the temple to God and is also known as the “Festival of Lights”.
Hanukkah means “Dedication” in Hebrew and begins on 25th of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar and falls during November or December.
The festival is a reminder of a time over 2500 years ago when a Syrian king named Antiochus, told the Jewish people that they must worship Greek gods.
A statue of Antiochus was placed in a Jewish temple and they were ordered to bow before him, but the Ten Commandments forbid Jews to worship statues and they refused.
Then a small group of Jews named the Maccabees decided to rebel and after three years of fighting, they finally recaptured Jerusalem from the Syrians. Unfortunately, the temple was almost comletely destroyed.
The Jews repaired the Temple, and when it was completed they rededicated it to God. This was done by lighting the lamp (Menorah) – a symbol of God’s presence. They could only find one jar of oil to light the lamp, which would have been enough for one day, but somehow the lamp stayed alight for eight days, hence the length of their celebrations.
These days the celebrations include the lighting of one candle on the Hanukiah (an eight-stemmed candelabrum) each day. The sharing of traditional foods and games.
The most common game played at the Hanukkah is the use of a dreidel. This is a spinning top with four hebrew letters on each side spelling out “Nes gadol haya sham”, which translates means “A great miracle occurred there”.