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When Is Hanukkah This Year — and What’s It About?

By , December 5th, 2017 | One Comment

What is Hanukkah

When is Hanukkah in 2017? This year, it begins at sundown on Tuesday, Dec. 12 and lasts until Wednesday, Dec. 20.

What Is Hanukkah?

Originally, known as the festival of lights, Hanukkah was actually considered a minor holiday until roughly a century ago, only to evolve into a mainstream occasion due to relative proximity to Christmas.

That led to the giving of gifts on Hanukkah — or at least the first few evenings of the eight-night holiday — that appears to explain why the occasion is typically the one that the most (non-Jewish) people are familiar with.

Still, the gift-giving seems to be more of a practice among Jewish households with children, and Hannukah still has not gained the religious importance of numerous other Jewish holidays like Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanna and Passover.

Eight Nights

Historically, the holiday has been celebrated with eight nights of lighting candles, prayers and the consumption of fried foods. The most popular of these are potato pancakes known as latkes but jelly doughnuts known as sufaignot are also par for the course.

You’ll see varying spellings of the holiday in English because it’s transliterated from Hebrew, in which it’s spelled like this: חֲנֻכָּה‎  That word actually means “dedication” in Hebrew and specifically alludes to the re-dedication of the great temple in Jerusalem in 165 B.C.

In 168 B.C., this great temple was seized by Hellenistic-Syrian soldiers. Mattathias Maccabeeus, a priest in the Jewish faith, refused the soldiers’ demands and his eldest son, Judas, fought to reclaim control of Jerusalem. Their last holdout was at the great temple, and when they returned, they found that there was only one day’s worth of oil left in the temple.

The Miracle

To their surprise, the oil actually lasted for eight days and eight nights. The miracle of the oil lasting that long is a focal point of the Jewish celebration of  Hanukkah.

This miracle is celebrated by lighting candles at sundown instead of oil. These candles are put in an eight-pronged holder called a menorah. The number of candles lit each evening at sundown corresponds to which night of the holiday it is. One candle is lit the first night, two the second, three the third, and so on.

Another tradidion is playing dreidel — which is a cross between spinning a top and throwing dice. A single Hebrew letter is written on each side of the dreidel, and whichever one turns face up indicates the disbursement of foil-wrapped chocolate coins called gelt.

An additional tradition eating things fried in oil, helps people remember the oil that burned for eight days. Typically

When Is Hanukkah in Future Years?

You’re not imagining things if it seems to you as if Hanukkah falls on a slightly different set of days every year: All Jewish holidays fall on the Hebrew calendar that corresponds to movements of the moon instead of the sun.

According to the Hebrew calendar, the start date of Hanukkah is 25 Kislev, and in 2018 it falls on Dec. 2 and lasts until Dec. 10. In 2019, the dates are from Dec. 22 to Dec. 30, and in 2020, it goes from Dec. 10 to Dec. 18.

Readers, do you plan to celebrate Hanukkah this year?


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