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Festivals: Hanukkah: Festival of light

Type: Reference material

Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of light which begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month Kislev, at sundown, and lasts for eight days. The dates for Hanukkah change each year according to the Jewish calendar. Unlike our European calendar, the Jewish calendar alters its dates in accordance with the sun and the moon.

Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Maccabee Jews over the Syrian Greeks in 165 BC. To celebrate their victory, one jar of sacramental oil was burned in the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. However, instead of burning for one day, as expected, the oil burned for eight days, thereby creating the eight day Hanukkah period.

Traditional Hanukkah celebrations include lighting candles in a special holder called a 'Menorah'. Each night another candle is added and lit using the 'Shamash' (central candle). Nine candles are lit by the eighth day, including the central candle. Other typical traditions include eating foods fried in oil, such as 'potato latkes' and 'sufganiot' (jelly doughnuts), and playing a game called 'Dreidel'.

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