History of Hanukkah


By Amanda Horn

When Judas Maccabeus entered the Second Temple of Jerusalem, he found a small jar of oil that should have lasted only 1 day but miraculously lasted 8 whole days. Since then, all Jews have celebrated all 8 days of Hanukkah and it has become one of the most well-known Jewish holidays. Jews have been oppressed many times throughout history and this holiday is a way to celebrate their overcoming of oppression.

Sara Parness, a sophomore, explained why Hanukkah is her favorite holiday. “I feel inspired by the braveness of my ancestors and I’m proud that we celebrate the holiday.”

Depiction of young Jewish children playing the dreidel. Courtesy of IsraeliBox.com

Around 200 B.C, the first celebration of Hanukkah was held. The dates vary every year due to the Hebrew calendar being lunisolar. But this year the holiday starts on November 28th and end on December 6th.

People often mistake Hanukkah for being the Jewish equivalent of Christmas, but this is not the case. These two holidays are celebrated for entirely different reasons. While both holidays celebrate by feasting with family, they are opposite in everything else. Christmas celebrates the birthday of Jesus and remembers the Son of God. Hanukkah commemorates freedom and the end of oppression of religion in their Greek-Syrian ruled home.

The oily foods are eaten to remember the miracle of oil. So oily doughnuts, called Sufganiyot, are filled with jelly and topped with powered sugar. In Israel, around 17 million sufganiyots are eaten around Hanukkah time. Latkes are deep fried potatoes and have been made since the Middle Ages.

Before the revolt, the Jews were forbidden to study the Torah and would have to hide in caves to practice theirĀ  religion. When they saw that the Seleucids under Antiochus IV’s control were coming, they hid the torah and played dreidel as a disguise. A dreidel is a four sided wooded object that spins on the tip and has four Hebrew letters on it. Nun, Gimel, Hey and Chai are written on each side. When all four are put together they create the phrase, a great mircle happened there.