Below is a description of the historical story of the holiday and of a typical Hanukkah family celebration today. Compare both and see if you can figure out where our holiday traditions come from!
The Historical Story of Hanukkah
Over 2,000 years ago the Jewish people fought against an enemy who would not allow them to practice their religious traditions. Their enemy destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem which contained many holy objects including a sacred lamp called the menorah. One small band of people, called the Maccabees, was led by a brave man named Judah. He led them in a fight against their enemies. Even though they were outnumbered the Jewish people were brave and won the battle! When Judah returned to the Temple in Jerusalem the first thing he did was restore the sacred lamp. But there was almost no oil left -- only enough for one day. The lamp was filled with this oil and lit. Instead of lasting only one day, it burned brighter, and brighter, lasting eight days -- a miracle!
How Hanukkah is Celebrated Today
Hanukkah (also Chanukah) is the Jewish Festival of Lights. The word Hanukkah means rededication. Every year the celebration honors the hard-fought victory of those trying to keep their faith despite a powerful enemy. It is an eight-day holiday. The first night usually includes a big family dinner with foods such as potato latkes, beef brisket, and jelly doughnuts. After dinner the family gathers to light the menorah candles -- a new one each night until all 8 are lit. Blessings and songs are part of the ceremony. Children then get to open gifts from family and friends. They play games with toys such as the traditional dreidel and chocolate coins, called gelt.
For more detailed information on the history and traditions of Hanukkah check out the following sites: