Hanukkah a highly significant time in the Jewish calendar and one that comes with a variety of different ways to celebrate and traditions to honour.
Although it usually falls sometime in December, Hanukkah falls at different times each year.
Here’s when it began this year, how long it lasts, and how to celebrate.
When is Hanukkah 2021?
Hanukkah runs for eight days and can fall any time during December or even earlier.
This is because the Hebrew calendar is based on the lunar cycle, instead of the solar cycle as the Gregorian calendar is.
Months therefore begin according to the new moon, which means Hanukkah can start on different dates of the Gregorian calendar.
This year, Hanukkah began at sunset on Sunday November 28th, or the 25th month of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar.
Lasting eight nights, Hanukkah 2021 will end on Monday December 6th.
What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah, or Chanukah in Hebrew, remembers a time in history from more than 2,500 years ago.
The Jewish holy temple was taken by Syrian-Greek forces and their king, Antiochus, forced the Jewish people there to choose either to abandon their religion or be executed.
A small group of Jewish rebels, called the Maccabees, fought back and recaptured the holy temple.
Inside the temple, there is a holy light, called the Ner Tamid in Hebrew, that is supposed to never be allowed to go out.
Once there, the Maccabees discovered there was only enough oil to keep the flame burning for another day.
Nonetheless, a miracle occurred and the flame stayed alight for eight more days, enough time for another batch of oil to arrive.
Why is Hanukkah celebrated?
The eight days of Hanukkah celebrate the eight days that the flame stayed burning.
As a result, each night, one candle is lit after sunset, except on Fridays when it is lit before the Sabbath candle.
Each candle stands on a special holder called the Menorah. All eight will be lit by the final night.
The Menorah holds nine candles, with the middle one, called the Shamash, being used to light the other eight.
Many families will place their Menorah in their windows, for passersby to see.
As with many religious holidays, there are also some food-based traditions that Jewish people observe during Hanukkah.
For example, eating foods with oil is a way of celebrating the miracle with the oil in the temple like doughnuts and potato pancakes called latkes.
Gifts are also often shared between friends and families, with some people giving a different gift on each of the eight days.
Children are also often given Hanukkah gelt, small gifts of money or sometimes chocolate coins.
Another tradition is to play a game with a spinning top called a dreidel, whih has Hebrew writing on side of it.
Some believe that dreidels were used by Jewish children from the time of the Maccabees to study Hebrew writing in secret, as it simply looked like they were playing.
To wish those who celebrate Hanukkah well, you can say ‘happy Hanukkah’ or the Hebrew ‘Hanukkah Sameach’.
Otherwise, you could say ‘Chag Sameach’, which means ‘happy holiday’ in Hebrew.