The Chanuka is a Jewish festival of lights. The festival marks the religious freedom of the Jews and is linked to the winter solstice. In Hebrew, the term "Hanukkah" implies "dedication."
The Origin of the festival
In the second century BC, the Jewish faith was outlawed by the conquering Syrians. At the time of the solstice, the Syrians put out the light of the menorah that burned in front of the altar of the temple of Jerusalem and thus dishonored it. However, after three years the Maccabees managed to restore the temple by defeating the Syrians.
The celebration of Hanukkah goes on for eight days reminding the Jews that though there was only enough consecrated oil to light the menorah for a single day, the menorah remained lighted for eight days miraculously.
The Lighting of the Menorah
The lighting of the menorah is the most significant ritual in the Chanukkah festival. Every evening of the festival has Jewish families assembling around the menorah when it is being lit and a blessing is offered. This event circles around allowing a candle stand with nine branches. There are eight candles to mark the eight days of the festival. All the candles have the same size, excluding the middle candle, which is taller and represents the servant or the �shamash�. This candle is used for lighting up the others.
The Food of the festival
The traditional foods of Chanuka are mostly cooked in oil, commemorating the burning of the oil in the temple. The famous foods of the festival are the potato pancakes and the latkes. For Israel, the food of the festival will be �sufgania�, which is cooked in oil and is a type of jelly donut.
Celebrated for eight days and nights, Chanukah begins on the 25th of Kislev (Hebrew calendar). In the Gregorian calendar, it occurs in November-December. In 168 B.C.E., the Syrians occupied the holy temple of the Jews and the Jews were forced to worship the Greek god, Zeus. The Jews were even pressurized to consume the flesh of pigs, which is prohibited among the Jews. Gradually, the Jews started to fight back and attacked the Greek soldiers whenever they could.
Ultimately, the Jews were able to repair their holy Temple and decided to indulge in a celebration. Therefore, the festival is a ceremony of the Jewish religious freedom and national survival.
The Chanuka festival is more of a fun ceremony for the children. After the lighting of the candles, the families gather together to have food and play games. The gift-giving tradition of Hanukkah includes the practice of providing children with Hanukkah �gelt� or money.
The Chanuka holiday does not have historical significance like the other holidays in the Jewish faith, but today the focus on it has increased owing to its closeness to Christmas.