11 Things You Probably Never Knew About Hanukkah
Straight from your good friend, The Holiday Armadillo.
1. So what is Hanukkah?
WELL, it’s a Jewish holiday that commemorates a miracle that occurred when the Maccabees (Israelites) recaptured the Holy Temple in Jerusalem from the Greeks around 2200 years ago. When they went to light the Menorah, they discovered there was only enough oil for one day. Not good. HOWEVER, the oil defied reality and burnt for an entire 8 days and 8 nights, until their supply could be replenished.
2. Hanukkah lasts for 8 days and 8 nights
The same amount of time as that teeny bit of oil kept burning.
3. This is also why people light a hanukkiyah or Hanukkah Menorah.
The 9-branched candelabrum has one candle for each of those 8 days, and an extra shamash or ‘attendant’ candle, which is used to light the others - 1 each night.
4. The hanukkiyah is not the same as the menorah - a seven-branched candelabra used in synagogues.
Because the hanukkiyah can also be called a Hanukkah menorah, there is sometimes some confusion.
5. The candles are placed on the menorah from right to left, the same direction Hebrew is read.
However, the lighting of the menorah moves in the opposite direction, using the shamash to the light the candles from left to right. Got it? Good.
6. Hanukkah doesn’t fall on a set date like Christmas or Thanksgiving
It begins four days before the new moon - the darkest night of the month closest to the winter solstice, the longest and darkest day of the year.
7. 24 million oily donuts called sufganiyot are eaten in Israel during Hanukkah
This is to celebrate the miracle of the oil that burned for 8 days. What a delicious tribute.
8. Remember Ross from Friends singing ‘Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay?’ (of course you do).
WELL, a dreidel is a four-sided top originally made out of yep, you got it - clay, and was used by students illegally studying holy text the Torah. When Greek soldiers would raid their scholarly meetings, they’d whip out their dreidels and pretend to be playing a gambling game.
9. Each side of a dreidel is marked with a different Hebrew letter: Nun, Gimel, Hei and Shin.
Together this stands for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, which translates as ‘a great miracle happened there’.
10. Gifts of cheques, saving bonds, and money are given during Hanukkah - a modern form of the traditional gift Hanukkah gelt (‘gelt’ is a Yiddish term for money)
This was originally reserved for younger children to encourage and reward Torah studies.
11. Hanukkah is a Hebrew word and can’t be directly translated, meaning there’s a whole 16 different spellings used in today’s society.
Whether you spell it Hanukkah, Chanukah, Hunnakah… all are correct!
- Words by Lizzie Cox.