10 Interesting Things to Know About Hanukkah
After the Thanksgiving parades end and before the Christmas music starts blasting, it's time to celebrate Hanukkah. The Jewish Festival of Lights begins on December 22 and ends on December 30 this year. So once you've got your blue, white, and silver decorations and menorah candles picked out, read up on the story of Hanukkah and get ready to chow down on latkes.
1. It all started with the Maccabean Revolt.
Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century B.C., according to History.com. Legend says that when a leader outlawed Judaism back then, a group of Jews revolted. It became known as the Maccabean Revolt.
2. The Jewish rebels won the revolt, but then they faced another challenge.
They needed to burn a candelabra for eight days in order to rededicate their temple. According to NPR, they only had enough oil to burn the candle for one night. But miraculously, the oil lasted long enough for them to reclaim the temple.
3. And that's why Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration of the "miracle of the oil."
On each night of the holiday, one additional candle (starting from the right side) is lit from the center "Shamash" candle, according to Chabad. In total, 44 candles are lit throughout Hanukkah, but most candle packages for your menorah will come with the right amount.
4. Hanukkah can align with other holidays.
Because the Hebrew calendar is lunisolar, Hanukkah isn't on the same date every year. The celebration always begins on the 25th of Kislev, meaning it typically falls in November or December of the Gregorian calendar — the same
season as Thanksgiving and Christmas.
5. But unlike Christmas, there's traditionally no gift-giving on Hanukkah.
Instead, children often receive gelt (a.k.a. money) from the adults, as Live Science says. Chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil, used in the traditional Jewish game of dreidel, are also called gelt.
6. Children win gelt by spinning dreidels.
Dreidels are four-sided spinning tops with a Hebrew letter printed on each side representing the phrase "A Great Miracle Happened There," My Jewish Learning says. Each player spins the dreidel — then depending on the letter it falls on, they either win or lose varied amounts of gelt.
7. Traditional Hanukkah foods involve lots of oil and cheese.
It's all because the holiday celebrates oil. The most popular recipes include latkes (fried potato pancakes), according to My Jewish Learning. Flavors can range from sweet to salty, and they're often served with applesauce or sour cream. Another traditional food is sufganiyot, or jelly donuts.
8. Chanukah and Hanukkah are technically both correct spellings.
The latter is the most popular variation nowadays. According to Dictionary.com, there are multiple ways of spelling it because of transliteration, which is when you translate a language that uses different characters or symbols into another language. The name of the Jewish holiday comes from Hebrew, so the spelling doesn’t have an exact equivalent in English.
9. The Torah doesn't mention Hanukkah at all.
The Maccabean Revolt occurred after the Torah was written, so neither Hanukkah nor the events that led to it are in the sacred book, according to History.com. Other Jewish holidays like Passover and Rosh Hashanah typically have more importance.
10. An astronaut once celebrated Hanukkah in space.
In 1993, Jeff Hoffman brought a travel-size menorah and spun a dreidel while on the Space Shuttle Endeavour to restore the Hubble Space Telescope. His mini Hanukkah celebration was broadcast over satellite for people back on Earth to see.