Wednesday 16 December marks the end of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights that lasts for eight days.
Hanukkah means “rededication” (devoting oneself to someone or something again) in Hebrew. The holiday celebrates a miracle that took place over 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem. At the time, the city was under Syrian rule and the king, Antiochus, banned the Jews from worshipping. Instead, they were forced to bow before a statue of the king himself.
Jewish law forbade them from worshipping any god but their own, and one group called the Maccabees fought back. After a three-year war, the Jews finally won back Jerusalem and returned to the temple to rededicate it. They did so by lighting an oil lamp as a sign of God’s presence. There was just enough oil in the lamp to last one day.
But the next day, the lamp continued to burn. It did so for eight days.
Today, Jews remember the miracle by lighting a candle on a candelabra – or “menorah” in Hebrew – for each day of the festival. The holiday is also celebrated with the giving of small gifts, games, and enjoying delicious foods. Some have special significance: latkes (a type of potato fritter), pancakes, and doughnuts are cooked in oil as a reminder of the oil that lasted for eight days in the temple.
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Watch Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik in her bright and entertaining myth-busting Hanukkah video.
- Draw a cartoon strip depicting the story of Hanukkah and the miracle of the oil.
- Use this outline to make your own dreidel. Then follow the instructions to play the dreidel game.
- Research another Jewish festival, its history and traditions. Make a short presentation about it.