Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights

Hanukkah, also called The Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday. It is an important celebration for the Jewish people. It begins on the 25th night of the Jewish month of Kislev (part of the Hebrew Calendar), and can fall within late November to late December.

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This year, it begins at sundown on the 11 December. It celebrates one of the biggest miracles in Jewish history, when Jewish resistance fighters (the "Maccabees") over-powered the Greek-Syrians over 2000 years ago.

A Syrian king had attempted to assimilate the Jews in Judea into Greek culture, and oppress their religion. The Maccabees fought back against their temple being desecrated and refused to worship other idols. Though the Maccabees won, the Temple had already been destroyed. The Jews repaired the Temple, and when finished lit a sacred Menorah (six-stemmed candelabrum). According to legend, a small pot of oil managed to burn in the candelabrum for eight days, purifying the Temple once again.

To celebrate Hanukkah today, a Menorah with eight branches (a "hanukkah) has a candle lit for each night of the holiday. A hymn of praise to God is sung each night after each lighting. This symbolises how God took care of the Jewish people throughout their darkest nights.

Despite the seeming solemnity, Hanukkah is a celebration. Families and guests often play games, eat potato pancakes and swap gifts after lighting the candles. Have you ever taken part in Hanukkah? Talk about your experiences or other religious holidays that mean a lot to you.