Today at sunset marks the beginning of Hanukkah. Known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is an eight day Jewish celebration commemorating the re-dedication of the the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the triumph over religious persecution. The holiday is celebrated over the eight days with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, prayers, games and gifts.
In the second century BCE, Antiochus IV Epiphanes issued a decree that outlawed Jewish religious practices and ordered an alter to Zeus to be erected in the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Along with his five sons, the Jewish priest, Mattathias, led a large scale rebellion against Antiochus’s actions. After his death, his son, Judas Maccabeus, successfully drove out the Syrians from the land and liberated the temple.
Upon liberating the temple, it was discovered that there was only enough oil to light the menorah in the temple for one day. However, miraculously, it burned for eight days, which was just enough time to manufacture more oil. Thus, the eight day Festival of Lights was instituted to commemorate this miracle and the Temple’s rededication.
The holiday is a wonderful time to gather with family to celebrate and feast on traditional foods made in oil. For each day, a candle is lit and children receive a small gift. Take the time to enjoy sharing stories with your relatives and have fun spinning the dreidel!
What are some of your favorite family traditions and memories? Share them with us in the comments below.