In Judaism, the power of light is most highly celebrated during the winter festival of lights, known as Hanukkah. This year, the traditional eight-day celebration begins on the evening of December 6 and ends on the evening of December 14. ‘Hanukkah’ means dedication and is the Jewish faith’s alternative to Christmas.
Hanukkah commemorates the time when Judas Maccabaeus and his family led the Jews against the oppression of Syrian-Greek rulers. The event celebrates a miracle that supposedly occurred after the liberation of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The sacred Menorah candelabrum was supposed to burn brightly every night. On one particular occasion there was only a small drop of oil left, barely enough to burn for just one night. Instead the oil lasted for eight nights, which was sufficient time for a fresh batch of oil to be resupplied. In commemoration Jews light a branch of a Menorah from left to right, every night, for eight nights.
The tradition of giving gifts during Hanukkah is influenced by Christmas customs. Gifts are usually giving to younger children to encourage them to continue with their Torah studies. The most popular Hanukkah gelt (or gift) is small amounts of money.
An estimated 17.5 million oily sufganiot doughnuts are eaten in Israel alone during the festival of Hanukkah. This signifies and celebrates the miracle of oil. Eating fried potato pancakes (or latkes) is also a popular custom.
How To Celebrate Hanukkah At Home
Hanukkah is all about celebrating the miracle of light. Even a small amount of light can transform darkness, and this symbolises the divinity of humanity. To celebrate Hanukkah in a traditional manner it is important to light an eight-branched Menorah candlestick. The Menorah also has a shamash, or ‘attendant’ candle in the centre of the candelabrum, which is used to kindle the other lights. If celebrating in an authentic manner, an oil Menorah is preferable to a candle one, as this was traditionally used in ancient times.
Hanukkah begins four days before the new moon, which is also the darkest night of December. During this time think about the importance of light from a spiritual perspective. It is the custom of many Jewish communities to light the Menorah shortly after sunset. The Menorah must contain enough fuel to burn for at least thirty minutes after nightfall.
Place the Menorah in the window and light one branch of the Menorah as you give thanks for everyday miracles. The candles are placed from right to left and are lit from left to right. On the first night one candle is lit; on the second, two candle are lit; and so on until the eighth candle is lit on the eighth night.
Whilst the oil or candles burn take the time to privately reflect or to share stories with family, every evening for the eight consecutive days. The divine light of your soul will be inspired to shine more brightly.