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History of Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a Jewish eight-day celebration, also known as the Festival of Lights. The word Hanukkah means "dedication" in Hebrew and is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, gifts, foods, and games. According to, the holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the Jews when they rose up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. Ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. He deployed his soldiers to Jerusalem to massacre thousands of people and defile the city's holy Second Temple. After a war that lasted two years, Jews had successfully driven the Syrians out of Jerusalem. They then cleansed the Second Temple, rebuilt its altar, and lit its menorah.

The symbolic menorah represents the candelabrum that was lit for a full eight days with only enough oil for one night. The miracle of the continuous burning is why there are eight days of celebration. Now every night of Hanukkah, a new candle is illuminated on the specially designed 9-branch menorah until the last night when the full menorah is lit.

Another common symbol of Hanukkah is the dreidel. A dreidel is a four-sided wooden spinning top where the four sides all have Hebrew letters on them. Each letter has a meaning and directive for the player who lands on it. A "pot" is also used to fill with goodies like candy or coins, and depending on what the player spins, you either take or give a piece to the center pot.

In reference to the Hanukkah miracle, traditional Hanukkah foods are often fried in oil. Latkes, or potato pancakes and sufganiyot, jam-filled donuts are popular in many Jewish households.

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