Interesting Trivia on the History of Hanukkah

The story of Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Torah, the holy book of the Jewish faith, as it occurred after it was written.

While Christmas trees and twinkling lights decorate Catholic households during this festive season, what about our Jewish brethren?

Well, they celebrate Hanukkah, a winter festival that lasts for eight days and nights.

So, let’s delve deeper into the history of Hanukkah to understand why and how the Jewish community celebrates this holiday.

What is Hanukkah?

Firstly, Hanukkah is not the Jewish equivalent of Christmas in a religious sense.

It commemorates the Jewish rebels’ victory over their Greek-Syrian oppressors and the rededication of their Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah, or Chanukah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, is celebrated on the 25th day of Kislev every year since then.

As the Hebrew calendar follows the lunar cycle, Hanukkah falls anytime from late November to late December.

Legend has it that the temple required a holy light to shine inside it, but the Jewish people only had enough oil to last for a night. Miraculously, the light kept shining for eight days, which is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and is also known as the Festival of Lights.

The story of Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Torah because it occurred after it was written. However, it is referenced in the Bible’s New Testament when Jesus attended a celebration called the “Feast of Dedication.”

What are the different traditions of Hanukkah?

During Hanukkah, a Menorah is lit each night to celebrate the holiday. The candelabra holds nine candles, with one at its center, known as the shamash, used to light the four others on either side. One candle is lit each night until all eight are lit on the final night.

Traditionally, during Hanukkah, money is given to one another, and the Jewish community has also adopted the tradition of gift-giving, similar to Christmas. They also play dreidel, a gambling toy similar to the teetotum found in many European cultures.

During dinners, most of the traditional food served is fried, symbolizing the miraculous oil that kept the lights burning for eight days. Over 175 million jelly donuts, or sufganiyot in Hebrew, are consumed in Israel during this holiday.

What types of food are served during Hanukkah?

During Hanukkah, just like other major holiday celebrations, a lot of food is served during gatherings. Traditional Hanukkah dinner staples include latkes, applesauce, challah, braised beef brisket, salmon with lemon and dill, crispy rosemary chicken and fries, and roasted green beans. These traditional delicacies must be cooked symbolically with oil and also be kosher, meaning they comply with the strict dietary rules of traditional Jewish law.

Hanukkah has been represented in popular culture through music, film, and television. The song “Chanukah Song” by Adam Sandler gained mainstream recognition and paved the way for Hollywood writers and actors to embrace their Jewish identity more openly. The 2000s gave Hanukkah more visibility through movies like “Eight Crazy Nights” and TV shows like “The OC”, where teens celebrate an all-inclusive holiday called Chrismukkah. Hanukkah-themed pop punk band The LeeVees also released a CD called “Hanukkah Rocks!” in 2005.

Hanukkah has a long history in the Jewish community and celebrates miracles and triumphs. It is an important holiday filled with singing, eating, and family time. When you meet a Jewish friend during this season, greet them with a Chag sameach or a Happy Hanukkah and hope to get invited to at least one of the eight days of celebration!


1. What is the history of Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the miracle of the oil that lasted for 8 days during the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The holiday is also known as the Festival of Lights and is celebrated for 8 days and nights, usually in December. Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian-Greek army and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE.

2. What are the traditional foods eaten during Hanukkah?

Latkes and sufganiyot are traditional foods eaten during Hanukkah. Latkes are potato pancakes that are fried in oil, representing the miracle of the oil. Sufganiyot are jelly-filled donuts that are also fried in oil. Other traditional foods include brisket, kugel, and matzo ball soup.

3. What is the significance of the menorah during Hanukkah?

The menorah is a candelabrum with 9 branches, used during Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle of the oil. The middle branch is used to light the other 8 branches, one for each night of Hanukkah. The menorah is also a symbol of Jewish identity and resilience.

4. How is Hanukkah celebrated?

Hanukkah is celebrated for 8 days and nights. Each night, a candle is lit on the menorah, and blessings are recited. Traditional foods, such as latkes and sufganiyot, are eaten. Children play with dreidels, spinning tops with Hebrew letters on them, and receive gifts. Hanukkah is a time for family and community gatherings.

5. What is the significance of the dreidel?

The dreidel is a spinning top with Hebrew letters on each side. It is a traditional Hanukkah game played by children. The letters on the dreidel, nun, gimel, hey, and shin, stand for the Hebrew phrase “Nes Gadol Haya Sham,” which means “A great miracle happened there.” The dreidel represents the Jewish people’s resistance against the Syrian-Greek oppressors.

6. What is the history of Hanukkah gelt?

Hanukkah gelt is chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil that are given to children during Hanukkah. The tradition of giving gelt dates back to the 17th century, when Jewish teachers would give their students money as a reward for studying the Torah. The practice of giving chocolate coins began in the 1920s, and today, Hanukkah gelt is a popular tradition among Jewish families.

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