Happy Hanukkah! Here’s all you need to know about the Jewish holidays

Sandra Oberg

General, Travel News, Work & Play Guide

Families across the globe are getting together to see their loved ones for the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah (also known as Chanukkah). On the dining table, you’ll find lots of delicious food that has been passed down for generations. The festive holiday is often called “the festival of lights” and is celebrated for eight days and nights. A candle on the menorah or hanukiah is lit each night, mimicking the one that burned in the Holy Temple centuries ago. To find out more here’s all you need to know about the Jewish holidays!

People having celebration dinner together

The history of Hanukkah

Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem during the second century B.C. A small group of faithful but poorly armed Jewish people, known as the Maccabees, were against their enemies the Greek Syrians. They had defiled the temple by erecting an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs within its sacred walls. In order to rededicate the temple, the Maccabees had to light a menorah that would burn within the temple at all times. But they only had enough pure olive oil to last for one day. However, somehow, the oil burned for eight whole days! This miracle left them enough time to find a fresh supply of oil.

And this is why near the end of every year, all flames are lit on the menorah, which holds nine flames. The first light is called shamash (“attendant”), and is used for kindling the other eight lights.

On the first night, they light just one flame. On the second night, another flame is lit. By the eighth night of Chanukah, all eight lights are on.

Candles on a Menorah

Delicious traditional fried food

The love for fried foods… This is to celebrate how the oil that kept the menorah lit almost 2200 years ago. Fried foods like potato pancakes (latkes in Yiddish and livivot in Hebrew) and doughnuts (sufganiyot in Hebrew) are traditional Hanukkah treats. And of course, the foods are cooked in oil and remind them of the miracle of the holiday.

Dairy foods like cheese and blintzes also have a strong symbolic connection to Hanukah, related to the story of Judith. In case you haven’t heard this amazing story, let’s sum it up for you. According to legend, Judith was a great beauty who saved her village from the Babylonians. And her beauty is how she charmed her way into the enemy camp with a basket of cheese and wine.

Latkes (potato cakes)

And there you have it, all you need to know about the Jewish holidays!