Hanukkah 2020: when is the Jewish festival this year, what is the story, and what are the traditions - including the menorah

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The Jewish celebration lasts eight days and dates back to the second century B.C.

While TV adverts and shops focus on Christmas celebrations at this time of year, as the Jewish festival of Hanukkah also falls in December.

However, the UK will still be under Covid restrictions during Hanukkah as the celebrations come before Christmas bubbles are allowed, from 23 – 27 December.

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Hanukkah is usually a big celebration in the Hebrew calendar, but what is the story, and how do people celebrate? This is what you need to know.

Hanukkah is celebrated over eight daysHanukkah is celebrated over eight days
Hanukkah is celebrated over eight days

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is an eight-day festival when Jewish people celebrate a miracle that took place after they took back one of the two temples of Jerusalem they owned.

More than 2,000 years ago Syrian king named Antiochus took the temple from the Jews and refused to allow any worship of God, instead ordering them to worship a statue of him.

This was against the ten commandments, one of which reads ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before Me’, meaning you cannot worship a god other than the Lord.

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The Maccabee Jews revolted against Antiochus’ army and finally reclaimed their temple after three years of fighting.

The temple had been ruined inside so the Jewish people repaired it and restored it back to its prior state before rededicating it to God

They lit a lamp as a symbol of God’s presence but realised it only had enough oil to remain lit for one day - miraculously, it lasted eight.

Why do Jewish people celebrate for eight days?

Hanukkah is also known as the celebration of light and is observed by lighting the menorah, a nine-lamp ancient Hebrew lampstand, for eight days.

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This represents the miraculous candle the Jews lit in the temple, which lasted for eight days.

The bridge of the menorah normally has one candle, the shamash, which sits above or below the rest.

Positioned in the middle, the samash is used to light the other candles, one on each day of the celebration, and it’s left burning until they are all lit on the final day.

How is Hanukkah celebrated?

The celebration begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, which can be any time from late November to late December.

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Although Hanukkah was traditionally a rather modest celebration, in the US it has become a Jewish alternative to Christmas and is celebrated similarly in western countries.

The celebrations begin at sunset on the 25 day of Kislev and run until the 3rd day of Tevet.

Each night, blessings will be given before and after the candle is lit and children will often play dreidel, a game using spinning tops.

Families usually come together to share gifts and food, with many Jewish dishes featuring,including sufganiyot, a jelly filled donut.

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As oil was used to light flames and is used for the menorah, many foods eaten are cooked using oil or contain olive ingredients, such as olive bread and deep fried latkes - similar to a potato fritter.

When is the celebration in 2020?

Hanukkah starts at sunset on 10 December and runs until 18 December 2020.

It is not expected that families in the UK will come together for Hanukkah this year as social distancing guidance will not be eased in time for celebrations.

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