All about Hanukkah


Courtesy of Mental Floss

A picture of a fully lit menorah alongside sweets and dreidels for a full Hanukkah setting.

Karina Shah, Photojournalist

Hanukkah, or sometimes referred to as the “Festival of Lights”, is a Jewish festival celebrating the rededication of the Second Temple on Temple Mount in Jerusalem in the 160’s BC. It is a time to celebrate the light’s triumph over darkness ( 

The festival lasts for eight days and eight nights based on the lunisolar (based on the lunar cycle) Hebrew calendar, therefore causing the dates of Hanukkah to be different every year. This can mean the holiday begins as early as the beginning of November or as late as the end of December. It is all based on the traditional 25th day of the Jewish month Kislev – the third month of the civil year and the ninth month of the ecclesiastical year in the Hebrew calendar ( 

Hanukkah 2020 begins at sundown on the evening of Thursday, December 10th. This is the point at which the first candle on the menorah is lit. After that, candles are lit each night from the flame of the shamash, or helper candle from the central column. The shamash is easily identifiable because it sits on a higher level than the other eight candles. Candles are placed from right to left but lit from left to right ( 

After a candle is lit, Hanukkah prayers are recited. From family to family traditions may vary, but the traditional way of blessings include covering your eyes with your hands and reciting the Candle Blessing. A loose translation of the most commonly used blessing is:

Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of the holy Shabbat.

As with many Jewish holidays, blessings change depending on the night of Hanukkah (

In addition to prayers, Hanukkah incites singing among those who celebrate. Though the market is dominated by Christmas songs, there are many popular Hanukkah songs like Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song”, Woody Guthrie’s “Hanukkah Dance”, and Paul and Mary’s “Light One Candle”. These songs are a great part of Jewish culture because they cover many key aspects of Hanukkah like remembrance, the menorah, latkes, and dreidels (  

Other activities and traditions are enjoyed during the eight days of Hanukkah as well. Some of these activities may include games such as Dreidel or giving gifts to family to show your appreciation for them. Family is a large part of these activities and traditions due to the large emphasis on family in Jewish culture in general. Dylan Shube (11) talks about his enjoyment of Hanukkah due to the connection to his family and culture that it brings. He says, “I enjoy the family experience that comes with Hanukkah and it connects me to my Jewish culture with memories that I cherish.” A unifying holiday that shows a beautiful culture is Hanukkah. 

Another large part of the activities during Hanukkah is the time to enjoy special food, in particular shallow-fried potato cakes called latkes. This classical food is meant to symbolize the miracle of Hanukkah. This symbolism comes in the form of the oil in which the latkes are fried. Loukoumades are another common cultural food from ancient Greek times that is often served during Hanukkah. A Loukoumade is a deep-fried doughnut ball that is covered in honey. Some other staple foods are cheese, pretzels, bread, and soup ( 

This year, Hanukkah ends on Friday, December 18th. It is a beautiful and culturally immersive holiday to reaffirm the ideals of Judaism and commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem by the lighting of candles during each of the eight days. It is a globally celebrated festival and brings people together all around the world!