Hanukkah

/hah"neuh keuh/; Ashk. Heb. /khah"neuh keuh/; Seph. Heb. /khah nooh kah"/, n.
a Jewish festival lasting eight days, celebrated from the 25th day of the month of Kislev to the 2nd of Tevet in commemoration of the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees following their victory over the Syrians under Antiochus IV, characterized chiefly by the lighting of the menorah on each night of the festival.
Also, Chanukah. Also called Feast of Dedication, Feast of Lights.
[1890-95; < Heb hanukkah lit., a dedicating]

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In Judaism, a holiday celebrating the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem in 164 BC, after its desecration three years earlier by order of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

The Maccabees recaptured Jerusalem and reconsecrated the Temple after leading a successful revolt against Syrian rule. The lighting of the menorah recalls the story that a one-day supply of oil burned miraculously in the Temple for eight days until new oil could be obtained. Sometimes called the Feast of Dedication or Feast of Lights, it is celebrated for eight days in December, during which the ceremonial candles are lit and children play games and receive gifts. Originally a minor holiday, it has become more lavishly celebrated as a result of its proximity to Christmas.

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Hebrew“Dedication”also spelled  Ḥanukka,  Chanukah , or  Chanukkah , also called  Feast of Dedication,  Feast of Lights , or  Feast of the Maccabees  

      Jewish festival that begins on Kislev 25 (in December, according to the Gregorian calendar) and is celebrated for eight days. Hanukkah reaffirms the ideals of Judaism and commemorates in particular the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the lighting of candles (candle) on each day of the festival. Although not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, Hanukkah came to be widely celebrated and remains one of the most popular Jewish religious observances.

      According to I Maccabees (Maccabees, The Books of the), the celebration of Hanukkah was instituted by Judas Maccabeus (Maccabeus, Judas) in 165 BCE to celebrate his victory over Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid king who had invaded Judaea, tried to Hellenize the Jews, and desecrated the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Following his victory in a three-year struggle against Antiochus, Judas ordered the cleansing and restoration of the Temple. After it was purified, a new altar was installed and dedicated on Kislev 25. Judas then proclaimed that the dedication of the restored Temple should be celebrated every year for eight days beginning on that date. In II Maccabees the celebration is compared to the festival of Sukkoth (the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths), which the Jews were unable to celebrate because of the invasion of Antiochus. Hanukkah, therefore, emerged as a celebration of the dedication, as the word itself suggests.

      Although the traditional practice of lighting candles at Hanukkah was not established in the books of the Maccabees, the custom most likely started relatively early. The practice is enshrined in the Talmud (Talmud and Midrash), which describes the miracle of the oil in the Temple. According to the Talmud, when Judas Maccabeus entered the Temple, he found only a small jar of oil that had not been defiled by Antiochus. The jar contained only enough oil to burn for one day, but miraculously the oil burned for eight days until new consecrated oil could be found, establishing the precedent that the festival should last eight days. The early date for this story or at least the practice of lighting eight candles is confirmed by the debate of the 1st-century-CE scholars Hillel and Shammai (Shammai ha-Zaken). Hillel and his school taught that one candle should be lit on the first night of Hanukkah and one more each night of the festival. Shammai held that all eight candles should be lit the first night, with the number decreasing by one each night thereafter.

      The celebration of Hanukkah includes a variety of religious and nonreligious customs. The most important of all is the lighting of the menorah, a candelabra with eight branches plus a holder for the shammash (“servant”) candle that is used to light the other eight candles. Olive oil was traditionally used for lighting the menorah, but it was replaced by candles, which are inserted in the menorah incrementally each night of the festival from right to left but are lit from left to right. A blessing is also offered while the candles are lit each night. The menorah was originally kindled outside the home, but it was brought inside in ancient times to guard against offending neighbours.

      In contemporary Israel, Hanukkah is a national holiday, and students present plays, sing holiday songs, and have parties. Schools are closed, and menorahs are displayed atop such prominent buildings as the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. A highlight of the eight-day festival is an annual relay from Modiʿin to Jerusalem. Runners carry burning torches through the streets beginning in Modiʿin. The runners continue until the final torchbearer arrives at the Western Wall, which is the last remnant of the Temple. The torchbearer hands the torch to the chief rabbi, who uses it to light the first candle of a giant menorah. The Hanukkah observance is also characterized by the daily reading of Scripture, recitation of some of the Psalms, almsgiving, and singing of a special hymn. Along with the daily prayers, thanks are offered to God for delivering the strong into the hands of the weak and the evil into the hands of the good.

      There are also a number of nonreligious customs associated with Hanukkah. Potato pancakes (latkes), doughnuts (sufganiyot), and other treats fried in oil, which recall the miracle of the oil, are popular. Children receive presents and gifts of money (Hanukkah gelt), which is sometimes distributed in the form of chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. Card playing is common, and children play a game with a four-sided top called a dreidel (Hebrew sevivon). On each side of the top is a Hebrew letter, which forms the initials of the words in the phrase nes gadol haya sham, meaning “a great miracle happened there.” In modern Israel the letters of the dreidel were changed to reflect the translation “a great miracle happened here.”

      In countries where Christmas rituals are widespread, some echoes of those rituals appear in Hanukkah celebrations. Some families, for example, exchange gifts or decorate their homes. The word Hanukkah in Hebrew also means “education,” and rabbis and Jewish educators try to instill in their congregants and students the notion that the holiday celebrates Jewish strengths, perseverance, and continuity.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • ḤANUKKAH — (Heb. חֲנֻכָּה; dedication ), an annual eight day festival commencing on the 25th of Kislev. According to a well founded tradition it was instituted by judah maccabee and his followers. The term ḥanukkah is found in Hebrew and in Aramaic… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • HANUKKAH — ネANUKK H Fête de la Dédicace, fête de la Lumière ou fête des Maccabées, la ネ nukk h (en hébreu: «inauguration» ou «dédicace») est la fête juive qui commémore la Nouvelle Dédicace (en HANUKKAH 165) du second Temple de Jérusalem, trois ans après sa …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Hanukkah — see CHANUKAH (Cf. Chanukah) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Hanukkah — (also Chanukkah) ► NOUN ▪ an eight day Jewish festival of lights held in December, commemorating the rededication of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. ORIGIN Hebrew, consecration …   English terms dictionary

  • Hanukkah — [khä′noo kä΄, khä′nookə; hä′noo kä΄, hä′noo kə] n. [TalmudHeb chanuka, lit., dedication < root ḥnx, inaugurate, dedicate] a Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Temple by Judas Maccabaeus in 165 B.C. and celebrated for 8 days… …   English World dictionary

  • Hanukkah — For other uses, see Hanukkah (disambiguation). Hanukkah A Hanukkiya or Hanukkah Menorah Official name Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה or חנוכה English translation: Establishing or Dedication (of the Temple in Jerusalem) …   Wikipedia

  • Hanukkah — Hanoucca Hanouka Un enfant et une Hanoukkia. Nom officiel Hébreu : חֲנֻכָּה ou …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Hanukkah — UK [ˈhɑːnəkə] / US [ˈhɑnəkə] noun [countable/uncountable] Word forms Hanukkah : singular Hanukkah plural Hanukkahs a period in November or December when Jewish people light candles in their home and remember a time when an important ancient… …   English dictionary

  • Hanukkah — n. (also Chanukkah) the Jewish festival of lights, commemorating the purification of the Temple in 165 BC. Etymology: Heb. hanukkah consecration * * * Hanukkah var. Chanukah …   Useful english dictionary

  • Hanukkah — Hanukka Ha nuk*ka, or Hanukkah Ha nuk*kah, n. [Heb. khanukk[=a]h.] The Jewish Feast of the Dedication, instituted by Judas Maccab[ae]us, his brothers, and the whole congregation of Israel, in 165 b. c., to commemorate the dedication of the new… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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