Eight days, eight nights, and eight facts about Hanukkah. It’s a simple set up, so without further ado let’s delve into one of the most well known Jewish holidays.
1. It celebrates a miracle at the Temple
Like many holidays, the actual origins of it sometimes get obscured in all the celebrations and hoopla. In the case of Hanukkah, it’s meant to remember the liberation of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees. If that wasn’t enough, according to scripture the temple was purified and the menorah burned for a whole eight days despite being low on oil (makes sense now doesn’t it?).
2. It’s not mentioned in the Torah
While Hanukkah might dominate the headlines, it’s actually a holiday of less religious significance than others such as Passover or Yom Kippur. While it may not be mentioned in the sacred texts, it’s easy to see how the fun, family oriented gift giving aspect helped make Hanukkah so popular.
3. Left to right
When lighting the menorah, remember that it must be done left to right! But don’t do that until you place the candles right to left. This is so the new candles are given attention first as you work your way through all eight.
4. Hanukkah at the White House
Hanukkah used to be periodically recognized at the most famous house in the world, but it’s relatively recently that it became an annual tradition. Started in 2001 by George W. Bush, Barack Obama has since continued the annual get together – which is arguably the hottest ticket in town during the eight-day period.
5. Gambling with the Dreidel
The spinning top has become an integral part of any Hanukkah celebration, but its origins are perhaps not what you’d expect. It was students, studying the Torah illegally, who used it to convince Greek soldiers that they were actually just gambling.
6. Gift giving
While presenting revelers with gifts (especially children) has always been a part of the holiday, it’s really only become a more structured thing after the influence of Christmas.
7. The lunar holiday
Ever wonder why the holiday takes place at a different time each year? It’s so that four days into Hanukkah will be a new moon – the darkest day of the month. This is because the holiday is meant to bring light during dark times.
8. The gift of money
“Gelt” – that’s Yiddish for money – is the traditional gift during Hanukkah. Like most things, it’s been updated for the modern era so instead of gold coins, you can often expect savings bonds, cheques, or other financial boons. On a related note, this is probably a good time to suggest foreign cash as a gift for a loved one this holiday season.
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