The Jewish Festival of Lights is called Hanukkah. It is celebrated to remember the rededication of Jerusalem's second Jewish Temple.
When is Hanukkah celebrated?
This is an eight-day festival, beginning on the 25th
day of Kislev, which corresponds with December. However, the Jews follow the lunar calendar, so Kislev can begin anytime between the end of November and go on to late December. In 2015, Hanukkah is going to be celebrated from the evening of Sunday, December 6 and will go on till the evening of Monday, December 14.
How is Hanukkah celebrated?
On each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, the Jews light a candle in a special candelabra or 'hanukkiyah' with the help of a ninth candle called the 'shammash' or servant candle. The The shammash is placed in the middle of all the other candles and is at an elevated position. People light one candle on the first night, two on the second, three on the third until eight are lit on the last night of this festival.
They are usually lit from the left and move on to the right. After lighting each candle, a special blessing to thank God is said and people sing a hymn. These candles are placed in the window of homes so that passersby can see them and remember the Hannukah story.
Significance of Hanukkah
Hannukah is celebrated to commemorate the defeat of the Syrian Greek army by the Israelites and the restoration of the menorah in Jerusalem's Holy Temple. It is also celebrated to commemorate the miracle of Hanukkah which is that one vial of oil which would have been sufficient for just one day actually lasted all of eight days!
Feasting and fun at Hannukah
People exchange gifts at Hannukah as they do at Christmas or any other festival. Families play games such as dreidel and sivivon.
The traditional festival fare comprises potato pancakes or latkes and deep fried donuts or sufganiyot, that are filled with jam or jelly and sprinkled with sugar.