Jewish Holidays and Festivals

Please see for a schedule of what day a holiday occurs in this calendar year.

Hanukah (Chanukah) Feast of Lights, Temple Rededication

Recommendation: a PBS Home video conveys the spirit and music wonderfully. Click here. This video may be in your library. It's in the King Co WA library.
Hanukah is the most important winter festival. It is celebrated for eight days and is known as the Festival of Lights. It begins on the twenty-fifth day of the Hebrew month Kislev (November-December).

Every night for eight nights the family gathers to light special candles, say special prayers, and sing special songs. The candles are set in a menorah (eight-branched candleholder). Each night one candle is lighted and set in the menorah, and on the last day of Hanukah eight candles are burning.

These lighted candles celebrate the time long ago when the Jewish people drove the Greeks out of one of their temples that had been taken away from them in battle.

An old legend tells that there was only enough oil available for the altar lamp in the temple to last for one day, but by a miracle the oil in the lamp burned for eight days.

  • Rededication after victory over Alexander's army

  • Prophecy of God's temples again on the earth, baptism, endowments
Chanukah is probably one of the best known Jewish holidays, not because of any great religious significance, but because of its proximity to Christmas. Many non-Jews think of this holiday as the Jewish Christmas, adopting many of the Christmas customs, such as elaborate gift-giving and decoration. It is bitterly ironic that this holiday, which has its roots in a revolution against assimilation and the suppression of Jewish religion, has become the most assimilated, secular holiday on the Jewish calendar.

An evil Greek ruler began to oppress the Jews severely, placing a Hellenistic priest in the First Temple, massacring Jews, prohibiting the practice of the Jewish religion, and desecrating the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of pigs (a non-kosher animal) on the altar. Two groups opposed him. They joined forces in a revolt. The revolution succeeded and the Temple was rededicated.

According to tradition as recorded in the Talmud, at the time of the rededication, there was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks. Oil was needed for the menorah (candelabrum) in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout the night every night. There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle. Note that the holiday commemorates the miracle of the oil, not the military victory.

One candle is added to the menorah each night. The first night, only the shammus (servant, and a light to all mankind) is lit and one Chanukah candle. By the eighth night, all of the candles are lit.

In the city of Tel Aviv every public building has its own menorah, and each night during Hanukah another candle is lighted until eight of them are burning in every menorah. In addition to the candles, all the lights of the city are left on during the festival. For this reason Tel Aviv is often called the City of Lights.

Boys and girls in Israel especially enjoy this holiday when they hold parties, light candles, play with their tops, and sing songs. Here are the words to one of the songs that children sing during Hanukah:
My mother gave me a levivot*
A warm and sweet levivot
Do you know to honor what?
To honor the Hanukah.
My father gave me a seveevon,*
A seveevon cast out of lead.
Do you know to honor what?
To honor the Hanukah.

Recipe - Latkes

Latkes (potato cakes) are a favorite Hanukah treat, and here is an easy latke recipe for you to make:
3 medium potatoes
1/4 teaspoon soda
1 chopped onion
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
oil for deep frying
Seasoning (ginger, nutmeg, salt, and pepper) to taste
Peel potatoes and grate very fine. Sprinkle with soda and squeeze out excess liquid. Mix other ingredients and drop batter by spoonfuls into hot oil, frying until pancakes are crisp on outside. Drain on paper, season, and serve hot.

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