Happy Hanukkah!

Sunday evening (18 December) sees the start of Hanukkah, the eight-night-and-day festival of the Jewish faith.

Based around the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, Hanukkah can take place any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian (Western) calendar.

Hanukkah commemorates the re-taking of Jerusalem from Greek-Syrian imperial forces, and the re-dedication of its Second Temple by the Maccabees, a group of Jewish rebel warriors, in around 164 BCE.  ‘Hanukkah’ is the Hebrew word for ‘dedication’.

To mark the eight days of the festival, at sunset, a candle is lit on a menorah, a candelabrum which holds nine candles.  Eight of the candles represent the Hanukkah Miracle: the legend being that, despite the warriors only having a day’s worth of olive oil, their flames continued to flicker for eight nights.  The nunth candle is to provide the flame to light the other eight.

Hanukkah is a major Jewish event, marked by music, foods fried in oil (to recall the miracle) and customs such as spinning the dreidel, a spinning toy with four sides, similar to a dice.

“Happy Hanukkah!” is the most common greeting to anyone celebrating this festival but if you want to say it in Hebrew, try “Hanukkah Sameach!” – or simply “Chag Sameach!”, which simply means “Happy Holidays!”