Hanukkah: Jews light candles to illuminate the world
When? It starts on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December. In 2021 Hanukkah starts on the evening of Sunday 28th November and continues for eight nights and days until Monday 6th December.
The meaning. Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. It is also known as the Festival of Lights.
How it is celebrated. This wonderful holiday is celebrated by all Jews, practising and not, and has a series of rituals. A candle or an oil-based light is lit every night throughout the 8-day holiday. The number of lights lit is increased by one each night. There are also special additions to the daily prayer service and the blessing after meals.
Hanukkah is not a “Sabbath-like” holiday: adults go to work as usual but may leave early in order to kindle the lights at nightfall. In Israel schools close from the second day for the whole week of Hanukkah. Some families exchange gifts; children receive books or toys and "Hanukkah Gelt". They are expected to donate some of the money to charity.
Family traditions. “Hanukkah is a favorite children holiday because it’s a holiday of miracles”, Rosa Reichler, a 32-year painter, tells. She moved to Austria from Israel a year ago. “There is a tradition in many families to tell children about miracles and to give candies, little presents and money made of chocolate. Children go to the museums, walk, make handmade Hanukkah-candles, oil lamps and sweet donuts. Friends and relatives visit each other. It’s really amazing to see candles in the evening in every window”.
What do people eat on Hanukkah? “It’s not a diet holiday”, Rosa answers. “We eat dishes cooked in oil or with oil. The most important Hanukkah dish is donuts with jam inside, which are fried in oil. Another traditional food is latkes (potato pancakes), which are also fried in oil and eaten with sour cream or sauces”.
The sages say: on Hanukkah Jews should light up the world to increase the good and the miracles. Rosa also believes in miracles: she has found the love of her life in Austria and is now expecting a baby.