Chanukah is the 8-day festival of light. See when Chanukah begins in 2017—plus, history, customs, and a few traditional recipes.
What is Chanukah?
Chanukah is the eight-day festival of light which starts each year on the 25th of Jewish month of Kislev. This date changes every year, because it is primarily based on the lunar cycle, not our civil calendar, and can range from early November until the 26th December.
This festival commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a group of Jewish warriors defeated the occupying mighty Greek armies. This celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and of spirituality over materiality.
What is the history of Chanukah? This festival commemorates events that took place in Judea more than 2,000 years ago, when the Syrian king Antiochus ordered the Jews to abandon the Torah and publicly worship the Greek gods. This act provoked a rebellion led by Judas Maccabeus, climaxed by the retaking of the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by the Syrians. The army of Jews won, despite their small numbers.
In an eight-day celebration, the “Maccabees” (as the rebels came to be known) cleansed and rededicated the Temple (Chanukah means “dedication”). According to the Talmud, there was only enough consecrated oil to re-light the candelabra for one day, yet, miraculously, it remained lit for eight days.
The central feature of the observance of Chanukah is the nightly lighting of the Chanukiah, an eight-branched candelabra with a place for a ninth candle, the shammes, used to light the others. One candle is lit on the first night of Chanukah, and an additional candle is lit on each successive night, until, on the eighth night, the Chanukiah is fully illuminated.
Chanukah Dates 2016
Note: The dates listed reflect SUNDOWN. This eight-day Jewish festival begins sunset of the date listed.
So, in 2017, Chanukah begins at sunset on Saturday, December 12. The first candle is lit on the Chanukiah on the 12th.
|2016||Saturday, December 24|
|2017||Tuesday, December 12|
|2018||Sunday, December 2|
Chanukah Recipes and Customs
Traditional Chanukah recipes include foods fried in oil, to commemorate the miracle of Chanukah which occurred with oil. Examples are fried potato panckes or latkes, applesauce, deep-fried or jelly-filled dougnuts, rugelach, and 15 more Chanukah recipes.
Many of the Chanukah meals are communal to bring together friends and family, especially if they need to reconcile.
Consumer gifts are not a custom; the menorah’s candles are meant to recall the miracle—and focus on this religious purpose. Traditionally, money was given to charity, with more given each day as the candles were lit. This originated with the need for even the poor to have money for the candles, so they could go door-to-door without any shame.
It is also customary on Chanukah to give money gifts to children, and to play dreidel games.
If you celebrate Chanukah, please share your traditions below! We would love to hear from you.