Hanukkah comes from a Hebrew origin word “Khanu” which means “they rested”. By literal meaning, Hanukkah is a nine branched candelabrum which is lit during the Hanukkah traditions, an eight day holiday celebrated by Jews. The background of the Hanukkah traditions is such that it dates back to 165 BCE. Jews had a great victory over Syrian-Greeks back in 165 BCE. The Jews led by Hasmonean family of Mattathias defeated and evacuated Syrian-Greeks from Israel. They restored a temple there.
According to the traditions and Holy Scripture (Talmud), when the temple was properly cleaned and the priest was about to light up the candles, they met an obstacle. They were having only one jug of oil to light up the whole temple. The jug was enough to last for one day, but instead it lasted for eight whole days. Hence in order to revive the miracle, for eight days, Menorah is lighted beginning from the 25th day of Kislev, according to Hebrew Calendar.
The miracle of oil lighting for seven days is because of the purity of the oil. According to rabbis, the oil was so pure olive oil that is was expected to last for one night, but it lasted for seven days which was enough time to produce more oil. The Hanukkah traditions usually fall on the month of November or December I terms of Gregorian calendar. During Hanukkah nights, a candle is burnt on each eight nights in the special nine candled candelabrum. A special candle called ‘Shammash’ is used to light other candles. This candle is placed in the center of other candles and is placed a bit higher.
During Hanukkah traditions, a special kind of prayer hymn is said before and after lighting each candle. Offerings are made in order to thank God and the menorah is placed at the windows of each house so that the passerby can remember and revive the glorious story of Hanukkah traditions.
Hanukkah festival also symbolizes the harmony that is enhanced by exchanging gifts on each night. The Hanukkah traditions are of special relish to the children as there are lots of games to play for them. One of the most popular and most played among them is Dreidel or Sivivon. It is a four sided dice kind of thing with Hebrew letter on each side. Combining all four Hebrew letters make up the phrase which means “A great miracle happened there”.
Food that is fried in oil is usually taken during Hanukkah traditions. Most popular and readily eaten are latkes and sufganiyot. Hanukkah traditions have a number of festivals associated to it. Preparing food is considered important and primary in Hanukkah traditions. The food is usually cooked in olive oil in order to revive the past miracle of menorah. Hanukkah falls nearer to the Christmas. So they also have an influence of Christmas customs in them. For example the tradition of gift giving is adopted from Christmas traditions.
Throughout Israel, the whole cities and towns light up in order to commemorate the victory of Maccabees over Syrian-Egyptians. The Hanukkah traditions are of special significance to the Jews and they celebrate it every year with utmost relish.