The Story of Hanukkah 


Mia Zaris '23, Staff Writer

Dreidel dreidel dreidel we made it out of clay… Happy Hanukkah!  Hanukkah, also known as the festival of lights, is a well-known holiday in Judaism that lasts eight days and is celebrated in the month of December.  


The celebration of Hanukkah comes from a military victory of the Jews over foreign rulers.  Over two thousand years ago, Antiochus, a cruel ruler of the Greek Kingdom, imposed atheist beliefs on the Jewish people. “You’ll worship Zeus,” he stated, and set up statues of Greek idols and slaughtered pigs at the altar, dirtying the temple. The Seleucid kingdom took control of Jerusalem in about 198 BCE.  


Approximately 30 years later Antiochus, a Greek king, attempted to force the Jews to give up their religious practices.  After taking over their temple, the Jews rose up against him.  Shortly after, rebellion leader, Judas Maccabeus, defeated the Seleucids.  Following that, the Jews rebuilt the Temple.


Once the Jews entered the Temple, they found only one small jar of lamp oil which was only enough for one night.  With the small portion of oil left, they relit the Temples lamps.  A miracle occurred and the oil lasted them 8 nights.  


To celebrate the ancient miracle of the oil burning a candle for eight nights, Jews celebrating Hanukkah light a candle holder called a menorah for eight nights. The menorah holds nine candles—one for each night plus a candle in the middle called the shamash used to light the other candles. In addition to the lighting of the candles, gifts are exchanged and children play holiday games during Hanukkah.  Typical Hanukkah foods include deep-fried jelly donuts called sufganiyot and potato pancakes called latkes. Both dishes are fried and represent long-lasting lamp oil.  After they’ve feasted on tasty foods, families gather to take turns spinning a top called a dreidel. Players can win chocolate which is known as gelt, or coins if the top lands the right way.


Hanukkah is a well-known and joyful holiday celebrated every year!