Home » What to know about Hanukkah and how it is celebrated around the world

What to know about Hanukkah and how it is celebrated around the world

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What to know about Hanukkah and how it is celebrated around the world

The Festival of Lights: Celebrating Hanukkah

As the holiday season begins, Jews around the world are preparing to celebrate Hanukkah, the “festival of lights” in Judaism. This eight-day holiday, which begins this year on December 7 and ends on December 15, is a time for family and friends to gather and commemorate the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BC.

One of the central rituals of Hanukkah is the lighting of the menorah, a multi-branched candelabrum. Jewish seminary students in Israel have already begun lighting the Hanukkiyah, a nine-branched candelabra, in preparation for the holiday.

The practice of lighting the menorah stems from the story of a small group of Jewish fighters who liberated the Temple in Jerusalem and found a small supply of ritually pure oil. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, leading to the tradition of lighting an additional candle each night.

While the Talmud reflects a dispute over the order of lighting, the general practice is to begin with one candle and increase the lighting with one more candle each night while reciting or chanting special blessings. The special menorah used for Hanukkah has eight branches, with a ninth place for the candle called the shamash from which all the others are lit.

Traditionally, candles are lit in every home and are placed where they can be seen from the outside, symbolizing the spreading of God’s light to all nations. In recent years, the lighting of menorahs in city streets and parks has become more prominent, providing a public display of the holiday celebration.

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In addition to the lighting of the menorah, donations to charity and social works are also part of the celebration for many, reflecting the belief that God calls the Jewish people to help make a better world for all.

As Jews across the spectrum of religious observance celebrate Hanukkah, they focus on the theme of bringing light to darkness and emphasizing that even a small effort against the odds can have a transformative effect. Whether it is through the lighting of menorahs, the enjoyment of traditional foods such as latkes, or the giving of charity, Hanukkah is a time of joy, community, and commitment to making the world a better place.

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