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Hanukkah (Chanukah)  

Chanukah Begins
By Sarah Lane
Nov 18, 2008, 10:43 PST

The Celebration of Chanukah

The Jewish celebration of Chanukah begins this year on December 20, 2003. It is called the festival of lights or rededication, and commemorates events which took place in what is now Israel. This holiday lasts for eight days, beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. Most non-Jewish people have heard of Chanukah because is celebrated around the same time of year as Christmas. It is not, however, the most important Jewish holiday. The only overtly religious part of the celebration is the lighting of candles in the candelabrum or menorah.

There are a total of nine candles in the menorah, one for each of the eight nights, plus the shammus, which is a different height than the rest. The candles are lit from left to right using the shammus. On the first night one candle is lit, the second night two are lit, and so on through the eight nights. Chanukah candles are not to be used for anything else but this.

So how exactly did this tradition come about? During the years that Alexander the Great ruled, the Jewish culture was formed by blending many customs together. Over 100 years later, a ruler named Antiochus IV began oppressing the Jewish people. He prohibited the practice of their religion, desecrated their Temple, and started killing them. The Syrian King ordered the Jewish people to worship Greek gods and reject their own beliefs. This sparked a revolt led by a man named Judah Maccabee. After three years the fight was won, and on the 25th day of Kislev, they reclaimed the Temple, cleansed it of all Greek influence, and prepared for the rededication. Although oil was in short supply, it was necessary to light the menorah in the Temple. They had enough for one day only but miraculously, the oil lasted for eight entire days. Chanukah is an eight day festival to celebrate this miracle.

During Chanukah the gift of money is often exchanged, traditional songs are sung, and playing a game called dreidel is also popular. Latkes or potato pancakes cooked in oil are eaten to honor the miracle of the lasting oil.
Source:, AICE

NOTE: If you are wondering the right way to spell Chanukah, join the club. Here are some variations of the way people translate this word from Hebrew:

Chanukah Chanukkah Chanukka Hanuka Hanukka
Channukah Channukkah Hanukah Hanukkah
Chanuka Chanukka Hanuka Hanukka Channukah
Channukkah Hannukah Hannukkah Channuka
Channukka Hannuka Hannukka Kannukah Kanukkah
Kannuka Kanukka Ckannuka Ckanukka Ckannukah

Source: Jabberwocky Jewish Pages

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