Updated: Dec 2, 2021
Chanukah is all about light, oil and history!
In just a few days, Jews across the globe will celebrate the 1st night of Chanukah. We’ll inhale potato latkes (levivot in Hebrew), devour sufganiyot (donuts) and spin dreidels (sivivon in Hebrew) till we’re dizzy. But what is Chanukah really all about? Israel is Beautiful offers a quick primer about this history of one of the most joyous holidays on the Jewish calendar.
A bit of history
333 BCE The time of Alexander the Great, the land of Judea is ruled by the Greeks after almost 300 years of Persian Rule. Jews have some freedom of worship.
175 BCE King Antiochus of the Syrian Greeks start desecrating the Temple that sat in Jerusalem. Many Jews resent the Hellenization (Greek culture) that was threatening the practice of traditional Judaism.
166 BCE A small band of Jews, members of the family of Mattithias (Matityahu in Hebrew) rebel against the Syrian Greeks. Judah Maccabee is the hero of this Jewish group.
165 BCE The Maccabees liberate the Temple from the Greeks. Amid the destruction, they found only one cruse of oil to light the Temple Menorah. Miraculously, the cruse of oil lasted eight nights. Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel is restored. The Hasmoneans rule for approximately 130 years.
37 BCE Herod ascends the throne under the support of Rome and the Hasmonean dynasty comes to an end.
132-135 BCE Jewish sovereignty is briefly restored under the Jewish general Bar Cochba.
1948 Jewish sovereignty returns!
Celebrating the miracle
To celebrate the miracle of the oil, we light candles for eight nights, using a menorah or chanu'kiya in Hebrew. The menorah in the Temple had seven branches. The menorah we light for Chanukah has eight branches to commemorate the miracle, plus the shamash candle, used to light the other ones.
To celebrate the miracle of the oil, we traditionally eat fried foods on Chanukah including latkes and sufganiyot (donuts).
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