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The history and significance of Hanukkah

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Qué es Hanukkah, tarjeta de felicitación, Hanukkah, calendario de adviento, feriado, MundoNOW / greeting card, Hanukkah, advent calendar, holiday, MundoNOW
What is Hanukkah? (Photo: Shutterstock)
  • What is Hanukkah?
  • Learn the meaning behind this Jewish holiday.
  • It’s also known as the Festival of Lights.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a significant Jewish holiday celebrated over eight days and nights.

Originating more than 2,000 years ago, the festival commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire.

Hanukkah is not only a celebration of a military victory but also a miracle, where a day’s worth of oil for the Temple’s menorah miraculously lasted eight days.

This historical event symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness and the Jewish people’s perseverance against oppression.

What is Hanukkah

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The story of Hanukkah begins in the 2nd century BCE, during a turbulent period in Jewish history.

Under the rule of Antiochus IV, the Jewish people faced harsh religious oppression, and the Second Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated.

The Maccabean Revolt, led by Judah Maccabee and his brothers, was a three-year struggle for religious freedom and national restoration.

The successful recapture and rededication of the Temple in 165 BCE marked the first Hanukkah celebration, a victory of faith and resilience.

Traditions and customs of Hanukkah

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Hanukkah traditions center around the lighting of the menorah, an eight-branched candelabrum, with an additional holder called the shamash used to light the other candles.

Each night of Hanukkah, one more candle is lit, symbolizing the increasing miracle of the holiday.

Other customs include playing the dreidel, a game with a spinning top, and enjoying foods fried in oil, like latkes and sufganiyot, to commemorate the miracle of the oil.

The exchange of gifts, especially among children, and the singing of traditional songs also play a significant part in the Hanukkah celebration.

What it means today

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In modern times, Hanukkah has taken on additional significance as a celebration of Jewish identity and freedom.

It offers a moment for Jewish families and communities worldwide to reflect on their history and the enduring themes of resilience and hope.

Hanukkah also serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for religious freedom and the importance of standing against oppression.

This holiday continues to be a time of joy and festivity, bringing families together in a celebration of their heritage and shared history.

The Jewish calendar

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Falling in the Hebrew month of Kislev, Hanukkah’s exact dates vary each year in the Gregorian calendar.

It typically occurs in late November to late December, close to other winter holidays, which has led to increased awareness and celebration of Hanukkah in diverse cultures.

Despite its proximity to Christmas, Hanukkah maintains its unique religious and historical significance within the Jewish tradition.

The timing of Hanukkah serves as a beacon of light during the darkest time of the year, reinforcing its message of hope and perseverance.

It’s impact on culture

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Hanukkah has significantly impacted Jewish culture, contributing to a rich tapestry of customs, music and foods.

The holiday has inspired a vast array of cultural expressions, from traditional songs and recipes to modern interpretations in art and literature.

Its message of overcoming adversity resonates beyond the Jewish community, offering universal themes of freedom, resilience, and the triumph of the human spirit.

Hanukkah’s influence is evident in the way it brings people together, fostering a sense of community and shared history.

The global celebration of Hanukkah

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Hanukkah is celebrated by Jewish communities around the world, each bringing their unique cultural perspectives to the holiday.

In Israel, Hanukkah is a national holiday with widespread public celebrations, including lighting large menorahs in public spaces and national landmarks.

In other countries, Hanukkah is more of a family-focused celebration, with local customs and traditions adding to the richness of the holiday.

The global celebration of Hanukkah highlights the diversity within the Jewish diaspora while uniting people in a common history and tradition.

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