Hanukkah 2020

Hanukkah Dates, Traditions, History, and More

November 17, 2020

Hanukkah begins on Thursday, December 10, at sundown. Learn about Hanukkah history, customs, and a few traditional recipes!

What Is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah (also spelled “Chanukah”) is an eight-day winter “festival of lights,” which begins each year on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev.

Because the Hebrew calendar is based on the lunar cycle, the dates of Jewish holidays according to the Gregorian calendar change from year to year. For this reason, the beginning of Hanukkah can range from late November to late December.

In short, Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a group of Jewish warriors defeated the occupying Greek armies. The festival celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and of spirituality over materiality. Read on to learn more about the history of Hanukkah.

When Is Hanukkah?

In 2020, Hanukkah begins at sundown on Thursday, December 10, and continues through Friday, December 18. The first candle is lit on the Chanukiah (menorah) on this date.

Note: Hanukkah begins and ends at sundown on the dates listed below. See Sunrise and Sunset Times for your area.

Hanukkah Dates

Year Hanukkah Begins Hanukkah Ends
2020 Thursday, December 10 Friday, December 18
2021 Sunday, November 28 Monday, December 6
2022 Sunday, December 18 Monday, December 26
2023 Thursday, December 7 Friday, December 15

A Short History of Hanukkah

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. 

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.

What Does the Word “Chanukah” (or “Hanukkah”) Mean?

The word chanukah means “inauguration” or “dedication.” After the rebellion, the Temple was in ruin, including the alter. The Maccabees buried the stones of the altar and built a new one. Thus, Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple and the altar.

How do you pronounce “Hanukkah”? The Hebrew word is actually pronounced with a guttural, “kh” sound, kha-nu-kah, not tcha-new-kah.

How Hanukkah is Celebrated

The central feature of the observance of is the nightly lighting of the Chanukiah or menorah, 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 Hanukkah, and an additional candle is lit on each successive night, until, on the eighth night, the Chanukiah is fully illuminated.

Hanukkah is also called the Feast of Lights or Festival of Lights due to the importance of the candle-lighting.

potato latkes
Potato latkes with sour cream and chives. Photo Credit: GreenArt/Shutterstock

Hanukkah Recipes to Try

Traditional Hanukkah recipes include foods fried in oil, to commemorate the original miracle of the oil. Dairy products are also popular during Hanukkah. 

Some of the most popular foods include latkes (fried potato pancakes), applesauce, sufganiyot (deep-fried or jelly doughnuts), and rugelach pastries. See more Hanukkah recipes!

Many Hanukkah meals are eaten communally to bring together friends and family, especially if they need to reconcile.

Dreidels. Photo by Adiel lo/Wikimedia Commons.
Colorful dreidels. Photo by Adiel lo/Wikimedia Commons.

Hanukkah Customs

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 Hanukkah to give money (called Hanukkah gelt) to children, and to play games with the dreidel—a four-sided spinning top. The Hebrew letters printed on the sides of a dreidel are an acronym that stands for the phrase Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, “a great miracle happened there”—a reference to the miracle of the oil.

Do you celebrate Hanukkah? If you do, please share your family’s traditions below!

Learn More

Learn about other significant Jewish holidays, such as Rosh HashanahYom Kippur, and Passover.



Reader Comments

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Chanukah Dates

Chanukah can begin as early as LATE November not EARLY November, or as late as late December.

Hanukkah Traditions

Ours is a mixed faith family, so we celebrate everything. The joke with our kids and their friends was that every year, the menorah burned down the Christmas tree! Our menorah is an antique, bought by my husband's Grandma Molly in 1915. She gave it to us when we were married, and we cherish it. I have her recipe and my mother-in-law's for latkes - potato pancakes, and we enjoy them - usually on the 8th night when all the candles are lit. Our friends are of all faiths, and when the kids were small, we'd have a Hanukkah party on the last night and invite everyone to share the traditions. Everyone looked forward to it. I learned to play the Hanukkah Hymn, otherwise known as "Rock of Ages" (not the Christian hymn of that name) on my harp a few years ago, and my family loves to sing the holiday songs. One of my Jewish nursing students said to me today "Miracles still happen, so shine brightly and pass your Light to the world!" Good advice no matter what your religion. Happy Hanukkah, everyone.

The start of the Chanukah holiday

The start of Chanukah is not always at the end of December. It goes according to the Jewish calendar. I believe it is the 25th day of the 9th month. That day could be right after Thanksgiving or it could b Xmas Eve.

Festival of Light 2015

Enjoy celebrating triumphs of Light over Darkness!


cant relive Hanuka starts on the 6th of dec in 2015 for it has always been towards the end of dec


I had just finished teaching Christmas Around the World when a television news reported said Hanukkah lasted eight days because the war lasted eight days. I couldn't believe that they would make such a mistake on National TV.

Channukah, starts like most

Channukah, starts like most Jewish holidays in the evening, as said in the Old Testament; First there was evening, and then there was light, thus was the first day. Jewish people have always followed this that the new "day" starts in the evening. Thus is the same for this holiday; as the first candle is lit on the evening and it is then a "day" for the next 24 hours.

The Greek gods were

The Greek gods were worshipped by the Syrians because their king was a descendant of one of Alexander's generals, so the Syrians were colonized by the Greeks. In Jesus' day, under the Roman occupation, the miracle of the oil was the public celebration, as a remembrance of a sucessful insurrection wouldn't have gone over too well with the Romans.