Hannuka history and customs

Hey readers Happy Holidays!

Channuka started on the 12th and I often have people asking me what this holiday is all about so I figured I would share some history and customs with you all this year. The story I was told as a child explained that Chanukka celebrates the maccabean rebellion around 200 bc and their oil lamp lasting 8 days, when it should have only lasted for 1 night. There is a lot more to the story.

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Around this time period, 200 B.C., Judea was under the control of Antiochus III, a syrian king. He allowed the Jews to live and worship freely, but when he passed away his son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, outlawed Judaism and tried to forcibly convert the jewish population. When the Judean inhabitants proved stubborn, the new king and his soldiers desecrated the second temple of Jerusalem and sacrificed pigs at its alter. A jewish priest and his five sons started a rebellion and after 3 years of guerilla warfare managed to run out the Syrians and to reclaim the lands and properties. They then set about rededicating the temple, and found the only had enough purified oil to last one night. Here is where the miracle of light happens. It takes approximately 8 days to complete the oil purification process, and miraculously the oil in the menorah lasted 8 times as long as it should have, giving them enough time to find or create a fresh supply of oil. Having witnessed this miracle, the Jewish leaders to call for a yearly celebration of the miracle of light.

Now, you won’t find this story written anywhere in the bible, because it happened after the old testament was written. However, you will find writings referring to these events in the Talmud, which is a collection of historical happenings and determinations by which Jewish law and decisions are made. In this way it is more of a historical holiday, like the Fourth of July in the U.S. It’s celebration is usually marked by the lighting of the Menorah, an 8 armed candelabra with one candle in the center which is called the shamash, or helper. Traditionally, you light one candle on the first night, letting it burn all the way down, adding a candle each night until the entire candelabra is lit. Hanukka candles tend to be thin, tapered and brightly colored. Like most holidays there are traditional foods and for hanukkah the most common arelatkes, potato pancakes cooked in oil, and sufganiyot, jam filled donuts. Often times you will find families playing a gambling game with a Dreidel, and exchanging small gifts.

Hopefully this was somewhat informative for you, and you now have a greater appreciation for Jewish history. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more about Jewish history and culture, please let me know below or email me at cherrieschocolateanddirt@gmail.com. As always, I would love to hear from you so please do not hesitate.

Happy Holidays.