- Creative Corner
The story of Hanukkah is preserved in the books of the First and Second Maccabees. These books are not part of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), they are apocryphal books instead. The miracle of the one-day supply of oil miraculously lasting eight days is first described in the Talmud.
Hanukkah (Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה in Modern Hebrew, also romanized as Chanukah or Chanuka), also known as the Festival of Lights is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE.
The name "Hanukkah" derives from the Hebrew verb "חנך", meaning "to dedicate". On Hanukkah, the Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple.
The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. The typical Menorah consists of 8 branches with an additional raised branch. The extra light is called a shamash (Hebrew: שמש, "attendant" or "sexton") and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest. The purpose of the shamash is to have a light available for use, as using the Hanukkah lights themselves is forbidden.
Hanukkah is celebrated by a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the 8-day holiday, some are family-based and others communal. There are special additions to the daily prayer service, and a section is added to the blessing after meals. Hanukkah is not a "Sabbath-like" holiday, and there is no obligation to refrain from activities that are forbidden on the Sabbath. Many families exchange gifts each night, and fried foods are eaten.
There are several songs associated with the festival of Hanukkah. The most well known in English-speaking countries include "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" and "Chanukah, Oh Chanukah". In Israel, Hanukkah has become something of a national holiday.
There is a custom of eating foods fried or baked in oil as the original miracle of the Hanukkah menorah involved the discovery of a small flask of pure olive oil used by the Jewish High Priest, the Kohen Gadol. This small batch of olive oil was only supposed to last one day, and instead it lasted eight.
Potato pancakes, known as latkes in Yiddish, are traditionally associated with Hanukkah, especially among Ashkenazi families, similarly many Sephardic, Polish and Israeli families have the custom of eating all kinds of jam-filled doughnuts (Yiddish: pontshkes) which are deep-fried in oil.
The dreidel, is a four-sided spinning top that children play with on Hanukkah. Each side is imprinted with a Hebrew letter. These letters are an acronym for the Hebrew words נס גדול היה שם (Nes Gadol Haya Sham, "A great miracle happened there"), referring to the miracle of the oil that took place in the Beit Hamikdash.
Hanukkah gelt (Yiddish for "money") is often distributed to children to enhance their enjoyment of the holiday.