Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is the Jewish holiday also known as the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah means dedication. The Festival of Lights commemorates the victorious Maccabees who liberated the land of Israel from the Syrian Greeks in 167 B.C.E . The Maccabees rededicated the temple and only had enough oil for one day for the menorah but miraculously the oil lasted 8 days.

About Hanukkah

Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Bible. It wasn’t until 600 years after the Maccabees defeated the Greeks that it appears in the Talmud, in detail, describing the celebration. Hanukkah speaks of religious freedom and liberty making it an important Jewish holiday to be celebrated by its people.

In the US Hanukkah gained popularity in the 19th century when two Rabbis from Cincinnati, Ohio, wanted to connect their children to the synagogue. It gave them something to celebrate at the same time many Christians were celebrating Christmas.

This celebration was widely publicized and was soon being celebrated around the country. Hanukkah again became extremely important in the early 20th century when over 2 million Jewish immigrants came to America. Hanukkah allowed them to connect with each other and celebrate their religious freedom which had been oppressed for so many years.

Hanukkah traditions are an important part of the celebration. The best known are playing the Dreidel game and lighting the Menorah and saying blessings. As a family you can do other Hanukkah themed activities like reading stories about the history, making Hanukkah cards for friends and family and allowing the children to help prepare the food for the festivities. Generosity is an important part of Hanukkah, so don’t forget to set the table with an extra plate for that wondering stranger who might need a place to eat!

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