Since Christmas and Hanukkah fall around the same time every year, many people wonder if Hanukkah is like a Jewish equivalent of Christmas but religiously speaking this is not accurate. Christmas marks the birth of Jesus but Hanukkah was celebrated for centuries even prior to that and it serves to commemorate something totally different.
What is Hanukkah?
Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah celebrates the rededicated Second Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. The Maccabees were a group of Jewish rebels that revolted for several years after the Seleucid Empire (a Greek state from 312 - 63 BC that sought to repress Jewish religion) converted their Second Temple into a site for syncretic Pagan-Jewish cult worship.
By 164 BC, the Jewish rebels were able to reclaim their temple and in celebration they lit its lamp, yet despite only having enough oil to sustain a flame for one day it miraculously managed to stay alight for eight days. This is why Hanukkah is commemorated by lighting a candlestick with nine branches (a menorah) as one branch is used to light the other eight and one is lit every night until the end of the holiday when it stands fully aflame.
When is Hanukkah 2022?
According to Chabad, Hanukkah begins on the Hebrew Calendar date of 25 Kislev and lasts for eight days. This means in 2022 it will start at nightfall on December 18 and end with nightfall on December 26.
How is Hanukkah celebrated?
For some Jewish people, Hanukkah is celebrated similarly to Christmas by way of offering gifts and sharing meals with family and friends. Traditional food items are often deep fried in oil (like latkes) because oil plays an important role in keeping the menorah aflame during Hanukkah.
Another common food item gift is the Hanukkah gelt which is chocolate money typically given to children. After the menorah candlestick has been lit in the evening it is a long-held custom to spin a dreidel which is like a spinning top that kids play with.
How do you say Happy Hanukkah?
Reform Judaism reports that on Hanukkah you can greet someone with ‘Hanukkah sameach’ (“ha-nuh-kah · sah-mey-akh”) which means ‘Happy Hannukah’, ‘Chag urim sameach’ (“hag · ooh-reem · sah-mey-akh”) which means ‘Happy Festival of Lights’, or ‘Chag sameach’ (“hag · sah-mey-akh”) which simply means ‘Happy holiday’.