What is Hanukkah?

Food writer Adell Shneer explains the meaning of Hanukkah.

By Adell Shneer

Lighting the menorah

Hanukkah often gets depicted as the Jewish version of Christmas. Though the two holidays fall at the same time of year, they are actually very different. Hanukkah, a festival of lights, is rich in history and meaning. Adell Schneer, a food writer for Canadian Living, shares what Hanukkah means to her.

Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem after the victory of the Maccabees around 165 BCE. After a three-year-long uprising against the ruling Assyrian-Greek regime, the Maccabees recaptured the temple and restored it to its traditional Jewish service.

The word Hanukkah, Hebrew for 'dedication,' refers to the rededication of the temple after it had been defiled. According to tradition, only enough oil was found to light the temple menorah for one night. Miraculously, the small amount of oil burned for eight days. We celebrate Hanukkah by lighting the hannukiah, a menorah holding nine candles, while reciting blessings.

In our family, just before dinner our kids take turns each night lighting the candles. On the first night, we light the shamash (servant) candle and the first candle. On the second night, the shamash and two candles and so on until the eighth and final night, when we light all the candles. While lighting the candles, we recite blessings and sing traditional Hanukkah songs.

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