Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish wintertime festival of lights. It commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt (167 – 160 BC) against the Seleucid Empire, a Greek dynasty.
Hanukkah is Hanukah is Chanukah
Hanukkah is also spelled Hanukah or Chanukah. The “cha” is pronounced “kha” hence the various spellings.
The dates of Hanukkah vary, but it’s usually in December.
The Story of Hanukkah
In the second century BCE, Jerusalem was ruled by a Syrian – Greek dynasty, the Seleucids. To avoid being forced to worship Greek Gods, a small group of Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, revolted and took over the land.
When they went to light the menorah at the Temple, they found only one good jar of olive oil. The Greeks had spoiled the rest. Miraculously, that one-day supply lasted for eight days until new oil could be prepared.
We light one candle on the special Hanukkah Menorah each night until all eight are lit. We recite special blessings, sing songs, and eat fried food to remember the miracle of the oil.
Latkes with applesauce or sour cream and jelly donuts. Yumm!
The dreidel is a spinning top with four Hebrew letters on it. You can win little gifts depending on which letter the top stops spinning with.
Hanukkah Gelt is money or chocolate money given to children. It’s an old tradition with multiple levels of meaning.
Hanukkah is unique in that we show our Hanukkah candles publicly.
The Chabad Hasids are major promoters of Hanukkah worldwide.
It’s easy to trivialize Hanukkah the way Christmas has been trivialized, but Hanukkah is a time of teaching and sharing who we are with the next generation.
Hanukkah in New York City
There are many ways to celebrate Hanukkah in New York City.
The World’s Largest Menorah Lighting is at Grand Army Plaza in Midtown, Manhattan and at Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope, Brooklyn (Oy Vey!).
Manhattan menorah lightings are generally at 5:30 pm (Fridays 3:30 pm and Saturdays 8 pm).
Brooklyn menorah lightings are generally at 6 pm (Fridays 3:30 pm and Saturdays 7 pm).