This site uses cookies, your continued use implies you agree with our cookie policy.

Celebrate Hanukkah! | Jewish Holiday

Celebrate Hanukkah! | Jewish Holiday

The Festival of Lights

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday celebrated in November/December every year. One of the famous ways in which Hanukkah is observed is by lighting one candle on the Hanukiah (an eight-stemmed candle) on each day of the holiday. Perhaps more importantly, during Hanukkah people exchange gifts and also give to those in need.

The Story

Hanukkah celebrates the great historic victory of the Jews over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 BC: Antiochus, the Syrian king, desecrated the temple in Jerusalem and attempted to make the Jewish people worship Greek gods - a terrible sacrilege. A group of Jews called the Maccabees fought back and waged a three year war against the intruders. They eventually recaptured Jerusalem and rededicated the temple to God.

As part of the celebrations they lit an 'eternal flame' in an oil lamp. After one night they had run out of oil and didn't know how to keep the flame alight. A miracle occurred and the oil lamp stayed lit for eight days, by which point they had got more oil for the lamp. The lighting of eight candles at Hanukkah represents those eight miraculous days.

Hanukkah For Kids

Children celbrating Hanukkah

Children celebrate Hanukkah by playing with a popular Jewish toy – the dreidel. The dreidel is like a spinning top but with Jewish symbols on. The game is usually played competitively for gelt – that is money or chocolate coins. Children of all ages can hardly refuse to play a game for chocolate money!

Jewish children also receive gifts for Hanukkah. More often than not they receive one gift for each of the eight nights of the holiday. Many Jewish parents hope that by making Hanukkah special for their children they won't feel left out of the Christian festivities going on around them.

The Food!

To the best bit – the food! Those of you who watch your cholesterol, look away now!

The Jewish tradition at Hanukkah is to eat food baked in oil (usually olive oil). It is also tradition to eat lots of dairy foods and cheese. The most common foods are potato pancakes (latkes) and doughnuts stuffed full of jelly (sufganiyot – see picture). Cheesecake is also popular.

An Inspirational Jewish Single Mum

Lynn Feinberg, a Jewish single mum and historian, became the first female rabbi ever in Norway in 2009. No mean feat.

Lynn Feinberg

She was the first single mother in the Norwegian Jewish community at a time when the conventional family, headed by the father, dominated the picture. Being a single mum meant that she had to take on many of the roles traditionally ascribed to fathers – something she enjoyed doing.

However, the experience of being a single mum in an orthodox Jewish community exposed her to the inherent gender related issues in Judaism – issues she vowed to fight against.

Going to the synagogue with her children proved to be one of the more challenging experiences. Being a women she was not allowed to sit with her sons, which meant that they had to sit at the front without a parent present. Clearly this was a frustrating and stigmatising experience for both mother and children.

< Back to Culture & Roots