Hanukkah (also spelled Hanukkah or other transliterations from Hebrew) is the “Festival of Lights” in Judaism. On eight consecutive evenings, Jews gather with family and friends to light an additional candle in the menorah, a multi-branched candelabrum.
Hanukkah means Hanukkah in Hebrew “dedication”, and the holiday marks the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BC. C., after a small group of Jewish fighters liberated it from foreign occupation forces.
With ritually pure oil found in the temple, they lit the menorah and kept it burning for eight days. The ritual of lighting a candle every night, as well as insisting on cooking potato pancakes called latkes in oil, is a reminder of this miraculously long-lasting oil.
The dates of the holiday are based on the Hebrew month of Gislev, which usually coincides with November-December on the Gregorian calendar.
This year, Hanukkah is celebrated from December 7th to 15th.
Jews across the spectrum of religious observance (from Reform to Conservative to Orthodox) focus on the same theme. Bringing light to the darkness And emphasize that against all odds even a small effort can have a transformative effect.
For this reason, although the Talmud reflects a controversy over the order of lights, most begin with one candle and increase the light with one more candle each night as special blessings are recited or chanted.
Candles are added from right to left, but burn from left to right in the menorah, thus always starting with a new light.. The special menorah used for Hanukkah consists of eight branches, with a ninth candle called the shamash, where all the others are lit.
Tradition calls for candles with a real flame, although some use electric candles in public settings such as hospitals for safety reasons.
A menorah is lit in every home and is traditionally placed where it can be seen from the outside, such as a door or window sill. It symbolizes the spreading of God’s light to all nations.
Menorah lighting in city streets and parks has become more prominent in recent years in countries around the world, including in public spaces.
In addition to the lighting of the menorah, donations to charity and social work are part of the celebration for many, reflecting the belief that God is calling the Jewish people to help build a better world for all.
(With information from AP)