The Story of Hanukkah from Time for Kids

This year (2013), Jews begin celebrating Hanukkah at sunset on Wednesday, Nov. 27, and end the celebration on the evening of Thursday, Dec. 5. The holiday lasts a total of eight days and nights.In Hebrew, the word “Hanukkah” means “dedication.” Hanukkah honors a struggle that dates back to 165 B.C., when Jews defeated an invading army and regained the Temple at Jerusalem. According to legend, Jews found a lamp inside the temple with just enough oil to light their holy lamps for one night. By some miracle, the legend goes, it burned for eight nights.Today, Jews celebrate Hanukkah by lighting a candle in a menorah for each of the eight nights.

FIVE FUN FACTS ABOUT HANUKKAH

1. When is Hanukkah? Jewish holidays are based on a lunisolar calendar, which is based on the movement of the sun and moon. A year on the Hebrew calendar ranges from 353 to 385 days. So, unlike Christmas, Hanukkah does not fall on the same date each year.

2. The Menorah:  Menorahs were the lamps used in the ancient holy temple in Jerusalem. The original menorahs only had seven candle-holders. A Hanukkah menorah has nine. During Hanukkah, it is tradition to light candles on a menorah — one for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, and an extra one to light the others.The world’s largest Hanukkah menorah — at 32feet high — can be found during the Festival of Lights in New York City’s Central Park.


3. Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel:  A dreidel is a popular Hanukkah toy. It is a four-sided spinning top with different Hebrew letters on each side. To play the dreidel game, players start out with the same amount of money (or candy) and they gain or lose depending on which letter turns up when they spin the top. In Hebrew, the letters form the initials of the message, “A great miracle happened there.”

4.The Gift of Gelt:  One Hanukkah tradition is the giving of gelt, or gold coins. In the past, children would give gelt to teachers and charities. Eventually, it also became the reward for winning dreidel games. During the holidays, chocolate candies wrapped in gold tinfoil are sold to mimic real gelt.

5. Festive Foods:  Many families celebrate the holidays by enjoying a meal together. Latkes or potato pancakes, are a popular Hanukkah dish.They are often served with applesauce and sour cream. Jelly doughnuts, known as sufganiyot, are also popular.

 

© 2012 Time Inc. All Rights Reserved. TIME FOR KIDS and Timeforkids.com are registered trademarks of Time Inc.  Illustrations by Chris Ware/MCT

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