Hanukkah, an eight-day festival that commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a group of Jewish warriors defeated the occupying Greek armies, begins on Sunday, Dec. 22,

The festival celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and of spirituality over materiality.

The first candle will be lit on the Chanukiah (menorah) on Dec. 22.

The primary feature of the observance of Hanukkah is the nightly lighting of the Chanukiah or menorah, an eight-branched candelabra with a place for a ninth candle, the shammes, used to light the others, according to the Old Farmers Almanac. One candle is lit on the first night of Hanukkah, and an additional candle is lit on each successive night, until, on the eighth night, the Chanukiah is fully illuminated. Hanukkah is also called the Feast of Lights or Festival of Lights due to the importance of the candle-lighting.

Traditional Hanukkah recipes include foods fried in oil, to commemorate the original miracle of the oil. Dairy products are also popular during Hanukkah.

Hanukkah: A Primer to the 8-day Celebration


Some of the most popular foods include latkes (fried potato pancakes), applesauce, sufganiyot (deep-fried or jelly doughnuts), and rugelach pastries.

Material gifts are not a custom; the menorah’s candles are meant to recall the miracle—and focus on this religious purpose. Traditionally, money was given to charity, with more given each day as the candles were lit. This originated with the need for even the poor to have money for the candles, so they could go door-to-door without any shame.

It is also customary on Hanukkah to give money (called Hanukkah gelt) to children, and to play games with the dreidel—a four-sided spinning top. The Hebrew letters printed on the sides of a dreidel are an acronym that stands for the phrase Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, “a great miracle happened there”—a reference to the miracle of the oil.



Image Sources

  • Potato pancakes: PIxaby
  • Menorah: Pixaby