Hanukkah is celebrated every year during eight days on the Hebrew month of Kislev, usually on December. On Hanukkah we commemorate the miracle that happened when, according to the tradition, the Macabbean got back the Temple after the defeat of Antiochus IV’s army. Hanukkah celebration is not fixed on the Tanach, but it is prescribed on the Talmud, on the Shabbat treaty.
The Macabbean rebelled against the numerous army of Antiochus IV, king of Syria (175 to 164 BCE), who had banned the Jewish people to practice their religion and follow their traditions with the intention of their hellenization. According to the story, when the Macabbean arrived to the Temple, they found the Sanctuary desecrated. There was only a single vessel full of pure oil (the only one permitted at the Temple), a quantity that only would last a day. They needed eight days to gather the necessary oil to purify and reopen the Temple. Miraculously, the oil that only would last a day finally lasted eight days. That’s the reason why we light the Hanukkah Menorah or nine-branched candelabrum during the festivity. The first night we light one candle, the second night, two candles, the third night, three, and so on, until we have the eight candles lighted. The Hanukkah Menorah must be placed on a visible place —close to a window if you live on an apartment or on the main door if you live on a house—, so that a passerby could know that they are before a Jewish home.
This festival reminds us of the struggle for religious freedom and the respect for pluralism.
Also, Hanukkah means opening, and it has the same Hebrew root as chinuch, education. In the times of Antiochus, the Torah study and teaching were considered a crime punishable by the death or prison. Therefore, when the soldiers’ patrols appeared, the kids studying the Torah would change their sacred books for teetotum to avoid the punishment. On Hanukkah the kids still play with them. It is called sevivon, a four-sided teetotum. In every side there is the initial of the Hebrew words “nes gadol haiah sham” (a great miracle happened there). In Israel the last letter is modified so that the phrase ends with the word “here”.
Hanukkah is a cheerful festival when the kids are the main actors and we help specially the people in need of our community. It is customary to pay visits and exchange presents and sweets: sufganiot, latkes and cheese cakes in remembrance of Judith, whose book is read on these days.