A Look Into Hanukkah


December is a very stressful time of the year. It feels like all assignments are due at once, and to make things more stressful, there seem to be tests in every subject. But there is one thing that keeps everyone going — the fact that it’s holiday season. Everyone is counting down the days until they can finally relax and be stress-free. A few weeks to get away from everyone and be able to celebrate the holidays. But what exactly does this mean?


For me, the holiday season means celebrating Christmas with my family. Feeling joyful and giddy while opening presents, that have been patiently lying under the Christmas tree. Eating delicious plätzchen while listening to Christmas carols.


There are, however, other celebrations taking place at this time of year, such as Hanukkah. The first time I learned about Hanukkah was back in 2nd grade, when my friend’s father came to school to teach us a little more about this celebration. I was fascinated by the games we played, which were so different from my own culture. But what exactly is Hanukkah? And what does the word Hanukkah mean?


The Hebrew word Chanukah (pronounced: kha-nu-kah) means “dedication”, and is the name of the Jewish winter-time “festival of the lights”, and lasts for eight days.

Hanukkah started being celebrated back in the second century BCE. In this era, the people of Israel were forced to adopt Greek customs and beliefs, as the Holy Land was ruled by Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks). Because of this a small group of Jews, led by Juda and Maccabee, fought against and defeated one of the greatest armies of that time. They reclaimed the Holy Temple and rededicated it to G-d, which is their God. They lit the temple’s candelabrum and the oil that was supposed to last for one day, lasted for eight. This remarkable event had to be honored, and that is how Hanukkah was born.


Hanukkah starts on Kislev (the third month of the civil year, in the Hebrew calendar) and lasts for eight days. Families come together to celebrate; they light the menorah, (which is then placed by a window or doorway) play dreidel and receive gifts (gelt).


Menorah lighting:

The menorah lighting plays a central role in the celebration of Hanukkah. It has eight candles, and on the first night one is lit, then on the second night two, and by the end, all eight of them will be glowing.



The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top, with Hebrew letters on each side (shin, hey, gimel, and nun). If the dreidel lands on nun, you get nothing. Shin means you have to put something in. If it lands on hey, you get half the pot and gimel, the whole. Any number of players can play, and to begin with, everyone puts something (it can be money, nuts, raisins, etc.) into a pot. When the pot is empty or has only one piece left, all players add one piece again. The round is over when one player has all the pieces.



Gelt is traditionally money given to children on Hanukkah. However, there is also chocolate gelt.


In Israel, Hanukkah is a national holiday, and people decorate their homes, exchange gifts, and come together. It is a holiday that celebrates Jewish strengths, perseverance, and continuity.