Also called:Festival of Lights, Festival of Dedication
Observed by: Jewish people Wikipedia
Historical Origins of Hanukkah
Beginning in 167 BCE, the Jews of Judea rose up in revolt against the oppression ofKing Antiochus IV Epiphanesof the Seleucid Empire. The military leader of the first phase of therevoltwas Judah theMaccabee, the eldest son of the priest Mattityahu (Mattathias). In the autumn of 164, Judah and his followers were able to capture the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been turned into a pagan shrine. They cleansed it and rededicated it to Israel’s God. This event was observed in an eight-day celebration, which was patterned onSukkot, the autumn festival of huts. Much laterrabbinic traditionascribes the length of the festival to a miraculous small amount of oil that burned for eight days.
Much of the activity of Hanukkah takes place at home. Central to the holiday is thelightingof thehanukkiahor menorah,an eight-branched candelabrum to which one candle is added on each night of the holiday until it is ablaze with light on the eighth night. In commemoration of the legendary cruse of oil, it is traditional to eatfoodsfried in oil. The most familiar Hanukkah foods are the European (Ashkenazi) potato pancakes, orlatkes, and the Israeli favorite, jelly donuts, orsufganiyot. The tradition developed in Europe to give small amounts of money as well as nuts and raisins to children at this time. Under the influence ofChristmas, which takes place around the same time of year, Hanukkah has evolved into the centralgift-giving holidayin the Jewish calendar in the Western world.
Since Hanukkah is not biblically ordained, theliturgyfor the holiday is not well developed. It is actually a quite minor festival. However, it has become one of the most beloved of Jewish holidays. In an act of defiance against those in the past and in the present who would root out Jewish practice, the observance of Hanukkah has assumed a visible community aspect. Jews will often gather for communal celebrations and public candle lighting. At such celebrations,Hanukkah songsare sung and traditional games such asdreidelare played.
LikePassover, Hanukkah is a holiday that celebrates the liberation from oppression. It also provides a strong argument in favor of freedom of worship and religion. In spite of the human action that is commemorated, never far from the surface is the theology that the liberation was possible only thanks to the miraculoussupport of the Divine.