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Hanukkah is a Jewish festival that is celebrated for eight days, usually in December. It is also called the Festival of Lights. Find out why and learn about what people do to celebrate this special holiday.

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Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish celebration.  Its date changes from year to year, but it always takes place either in November or December. It lasts for eight days and is celebrated by Jews around the world.

The menorah

The most important part of Hanukkah is the lighting of the menorah (a special candleholder used in Jewish ceremonies). For Hanukkah, there is a special menorah with nine candles. Eight of the candles represent the eight days of the festival. The ninth candle is used to light the other eight. On the first day, only one candle is lit, on the second day, two candles, and so on, until all the candles are lit on the last day.  The candles are lit at sunset and should burn for at least half an hour.  They are usually put at a door or a window so that people can see them from outside.

The history behind the festival

The festival celebrates when a group of Jews won back a temple from the Greeks in the second century BC. They made a new menorah to replace the one that had been broken. But when they went to light it, they could only find one small bowl of the special oil they needed. There was only enough oil to last one night but they knew it would take them eight days to prepare more. They lit the lamps with the oil on that first night, thinking it would burn for just one night. But the oil lasted for another seven nights and this event gave birth to Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.

Special Hanukkah food

Oil is an important part of the Hanukkah celebrations and all kinds of food made with oil are eaten on the eight days.  In central and eastern Europe they make latke, fried potato pancakes, that they eat with apple sauce or sour cream.  The favourite treat in Israel is sufganiyot (doughnuts filled with strawberry jam). Other popular festival foods include apple cakes and pretzels (bread made in the shape of a knot).  

Celebrating with family and friends

Family and friends are very important during the festival. It's traditional to invite people to your home to have dinner and to play games together.  The most traditional game is played with a dreidel, a wooden spinning top with four sides. There are four Hebrew letters on the four sides and, depending on which letter your top lands on, you win or lose. The game is usually played with nuts and dried fruit and sweets.  

Hanukkah gifts

Lots of families give presents during the festival, especially to children.  These are often games that the whole family can play together or books and other small gifts.  It is also a tradition to give money to children (Hanukkah gelt) and to encourage them to donate some of their money to good causes.



Language level

Intermediate: B1


I liked very much this magazine section. Different cultures -and religions of course- have different celebrations. Learning these cultures was great.

In my country, Myanmar, we celebrate Thadinngyut festival also a lightning festival. It lasts for 3 days and falls in October. Buddhists lights the candles for Buddha annually.

What an interesting festival! In our country India we also celebrate Diwali the festival of lights. It is a 5 days festival and falls between mid-oct. and mid-nov.

In México the most of us are Catholics, perhaps the most similar tradition could be the first communion. When the teenagers celebrate and accepted the catholic religion and they lit one big candle named "cirio".

No. There isn't.

In my country (Italy) the Jewish communities celebrate Hanukkah and, in this occasion, catholic authorities send a message them for highlighting the consonance between the Festival of Lights and the Christmas, because two celebrations happen in the same period of the year.

Hanukkah is one of by far the most ancient traditions of Jews and as ‘menorah’, as ‘latke’, ‘sufganioyt’, ‘dredel’ and ‘gelts’ are its indispensable and amazing properties. The miracle of Hanukkah consists in that only one vial of oil was found with just enough oil to illuminate the Temple lamp for one day, and yet it lasted for eight days. Jews calendar is lunar but the bases of the festival are the same as in Orthodoxy the Christmas has: its seven days demonstrate that the light is the most important in the life of everyone and is the symbol of eternity, and the symbol of support of the most loved persons. It’s hard to believe how we can live without our dears and such days help us to catch in our chores, haw important such things are as tenderness of hands and warmth of look.

We have a festival called Diwali in India. It is a commercial new year where people pray for prosperity and worship goddess Laxmi . They then begin the new year. Workers and staff are given gifts, from the company's profit.

Actually, we don't have this kind of festival, but we have two different kind of celebrations in my country Saudi Arabia which is Islamic religion celebrations, the first one called "Eid Alfiter" the second one called "Eid Aladha".
Eid Alfiter: came after "Ramadan" Which is name of month when Muslim people fast all that month, just "during the day" (my favorite).

There is no Hanukkah celebration in my country. There is some jew in my country, but I guess they don't dare to celebrate their traditional festivals in my country. I don't know any jewish person.
I don't have prejudice against any relegion. I like old tradition of different countries and I think people should respect to other's beliefs