But what is Hanukkah you may ask?
Hanukkah is also known as The Festival of Lights and **The Festival of Rededication. Hanukkah is the eight-day celebration that starts on the 25th day of Kislev; which may be in December, late November, or early January (as was the case last season). The festival is observed by the kindling of lights on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah; one on the first night, two on the second, three on the third, four on the fourth, five on the fifth, six on the sixth, seven on the seventh, and finally all eight on the final evening of the holiday.
There are several historical accounts of the birth of Hanukkah. Wikipedia has a nice write up – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanukkah
** The holiday was called Hanukkah meaning “dedication” because it marks the re-dedication of the Temple after its desecration under Antiochus IV. Spiritually, Hanukkah commemorates the Miracle of the Oil. According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days – which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate new oil.
However, non-Talmudic sources include no reference to the eight days of oil that has come to be a popular understanding and modern practice of Hanukkah. The Hebrew deuterocanonical books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees record different reasons as the origin of the eight days of Hanukkah. 1 Maccabees reads that, “For eight days they celebrated the rededication of the altar. Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the rededication…should be observed…every year…for eight days. (1 Mac.4:56-59)”
2 Maccabees says, “The Jews celebrated joyfully for eight days as on the feast of Booths.”
Another interpretation for the 8 day ceremony is that it commemorates the story of Hannah and her 7 sons. The story depicted in the Talmud and in the Book of Maccabees accounts how Hannah’s 7 sons were tortured and executed according to Antiochus’ policy when they refused to bow to a statue and to taste pork. Hannah herself committed suicide after the death of her sons.**
Happy Hanukkah to all my friends in cyberspace!