December 11, 2020
December 10th marks the beginning of Hanukkah, often called the “Festival of Lights”, a Jewish tradition which will last for eight days and nights and end on December 18th. This is a tradition that marks events that happened over 2,000 years ago and commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century BC. This holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, giving of gifts, games and eating of traditional Jewish foods.

The events that inspired Hanukkah took place around 200 BC in Israel, which was a turbulent time in Jewish history. During this time, the land of Israel fell under Syrian rule, Antiochus III being the King. While he allowed the Jewish people to continue practicing their traditions, his son, Antiochus IV was not so kind. When Antiochus IV took over, he banned the practice of Judaism and ordered the Jewish people to only worship Greek gods. This was followed by the massacre of thousands of people and the desecration of the Holy Second Temple.

After this desecration, a rebellion was started by Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons. Around 166 BC, Mattathias passed, and his son Judah took the helm of the rebellion, successfully driving out Antiochus IV and the Syrians within a few years. Following the successful rebellion, Judah’s followers were called on to rebuild the Second Temple and its altar, as well as to light its menorah.

The miracle of Hanukkah occurred once the rebuilding and rededication of the temple was complete. When the menorah was lit upon the altar, there was only enough olive oil to keep the candles burning for one day; however, the flames kept burning for eight. This event was proclaimed a miracle and inspired the eight day celebration that people of the Jewish faith partake in today.

While from a purely religious perspective, this is still a minor holiday, as it places no restrictions on work or school, Hanukkah has become much more commercial in recent decades as it falls around the same time as Christmas. Menorahs are prominently placed in windows as a reminder to others of the miracle that inspired this holiday. The reason for the Hanukkah lights is not for the lighting of the house within, but rather for the illumination of the house without.

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