Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah, is the Jewish festival of lights celebrated in the Hebrew Calendar month of Kislev, which can fall anywhere in the Gregorian calendar months of November or December. The first day of Hanukkah 2014 falls on 16 December and the eight-day festival ends on 24 December or Christmas Eve this year.
The observance, which remembers and commemorates the Jewish struggle for religious freedom, is celebrated worldwide between the 25th day of the month of Kislev to the second day of the month of Tevet according to the Hebrew calendar.
Here are 5 Important Facts to know about the interesting Festival:
Feast of 'Dedication'
One of the names for Hanukkah is also the 'Feast of Dedication.' (Hanukkah is the direct translation for "dedication" in Hebrew). The festival, in its historic significance, celebrates the survival of Judaism as depicted in the successful victory of Jewish people against the Syrians in the Maccabean War of 162 BCE. After the fight was over, Jewish people are said to have ritually cleansed and rededicated the Temple and also re-lit the menorah or "perpetual lamp"
Symbol of 'Menorah'
People who associate with this festival celebrate the holiday by lighting a special Hanukkah menorah or a candelabrum containing holders for 8 candles. One candle is lit with celebration of each day plus the ninth called the 'shammash' or "server", which is used to light candle. The ritual involves lighting one candle on the first night, two on the second, and three on the third and so on, so that all the candles are lit by the 8th day.
'Feast of Lights'
According to legend, once there was enough oil only to keep the lamp burning for one day while it would take eight days to get more oil. But due to some divine intervention, a miracle took place as the oil lasted for entire 8 days. This incident is often cited as the reason why the holiday is also known as the 'Feast of Lights'.
Symbol of 'Dreidel'
The driedel – a popular four-sided toy – is an important symbol for the Hanukkah/Chanukah period. It is a spinning top containing different Hebrew letters inscribed in each of its four sides. They are the four letters from an acronym which means "a great miracle happened here".
Songs and Food
There are many songs and food associated with the holiday. Some popular songs associated with Hanukkah in English countries include the "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" and "Chanukah, Oh Chanukah". In Israel, among the most popular songs include "Hanukiah Li Yesh" (I have a Hanukkah Menora), "Kad Katan" (A Small Jud) and 'S'vivon Sov Sov Sov" (Dreidel, Spin and Spin).
Food that is popularly eaten around the time of this festival include sufganiot (Hanukkah donuts), Hanukkah candy, mandelrot (a hard cake-like cookie), rugelach (a type of pastry with different fillings) and potato latkes (pancakes).
Here are 10 Best Quotes and Sayings to Share for Hanukkah 2014
"Colourful candles burning bright, each lit on eight very special nights." —Unknown
"Eight days the light continued on its own: A miracle, they say, but not more so Than ordinary lives of flesh and bone, Consuming wicks burned ashen long ago" —Nicholas Gordon
"Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame. Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart" —Hannah Senesh
"To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle; Every cubic inch of space is a miracle." —Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Praised are You, Our God, Ruler of the universe, Who made us holy through your commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukah lights. --Anonymous
"A candle is a small thing. But one candle can light another. And see how its own light increases, as a candle gives its flame to the other. You are such a light. -- Moshe Davis
"Kindle the taper like the steadfast star ablaze on evening's forehead o'er the earth, and add each night a luster till afar an eightfold splendor shine above thy hearth. -- Emma Lazarus
Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn't people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them? -- Rose Kennedy
"I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders." —Jewish Proverb "Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."—Chinese Proverb "Still ours the dance, the feast, the glorious Psalm, The mystic lights of emblem, and the Word."—Emma Lazarus, "The Feast of Lights"
"The darkness of the whole world cannot swallow the glowing of a candle."—Robert Altinger