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Hanukkah - A Festival of Light

The Jewish festival of Hanukkah started on the 3rd December this year and will last for eight days.

Ten Facts about Hanukkah

  • Hanukkah is known in Hebrew as Chanukah.

  • The word Hannukah comes from a Hebrew verb which means 'to dedicate'.

  • The festival dates vary but are at the end of November and the beginning of December.

  • Hanukkah is a festival of lights.

  • The festival reminds Jews of a story from 2500 years ago when their sacred temple was seized and defiled by the Syrians and the Greeks. King Antiochus gave the Jews a choice to renounce Judaism or die. A small group of rebel Jews called Maccabees led by a Jewish priest Mattathias and his son Judah. They managed to regain the temple but discovered that there was only enough oil to relight the holy light for one night. They lit the light and miraculously it remained lit for eight nights. By then they had made more oil.

  • Each day Jews light a candle after sunset for each day during the festival.

  • There are nine candles. One of them called a Shamash is used to light the other eight candles. It stands out from the others and is known as the service candle. The candles are placed on a candelabra called a Menorah which has nine candle holders. On the first might of Hanukkah one candle is lit by the Shamash and on the second night two are lit until all the candles are lit on the eighth night.

  • The Menorah is usually placed in the window, so others can see it. The Menorah is also known as a Hanukkiah

  • The celebration involves the giving of presents and eating food that is fried in oil. The oil reminds Jews of the oil that miraculously burnt for eight nights. It is an opportunity to a have a party and doughnuts and potato pancakes are often eaten.

  • Games are played. A game using a special spinning top called a Dreidel is often played. Jews that during the time of the Maccabees the children were banned from education but in secret they were still being taught. They used the Dreidel to disguise what they were doing so that when the Greek officers passed by, they thought they were playing..Music has been developed to accompany the game

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