Hanukkah begins - Evening of Sunday, December 24
Hanukkah ends - Evening of Sunday, January 1
Hanukkah is a much celebrated annual Jewish Festival which begins on the 25th day of the third month (Kislev) of Jewish calendar. According to Georgian calendar the festival is celebrated in the months of November-December. This festival, also called the ‘Festival of Lights’ is celebrated for eight successive days and nights. The Jewish festival has an interesting history. The History of Hanukkah dates back to 2nd century BC, when Antiochus IV Epiphanies, the Greek king was the overlord of Palestine and Syria. The festival honors the rededication of the ‘ Temple of Jerusalem’ (Temple of Menorah) by the great Judas McCabe in 165 BC.
Hanukkah means ‘dedication’ in Jewish. The king Antiochus banned Jewish rituals and ordered all Jews to worship the Greek Gods. The holy Temple of Menorah (candelabra) in Jerusalem was in devastating condition under the Greek Lordship. There was constant rebellion by Jews against the aggression of Greek King and his atrocities.
The rebellion has a sudden outburst in a small village called Median near Jerusalem when a General and his soldiers were killed by Jewish Head Priest called Mattathias and his sons. Later on one of his five sons, Judah Maccabee took the charge and stormed the establishment of the Greeks in some parts of Jerusalem. In 165 BC Judah and his men were successful in getting hold of their ‘Holy Temple Menorah”. They were much saddened at the condition of the temple and missing elements including the golden menorah. They cleaned the temple premises and repaired themselves. When they were finished they decided to have a dedication ceremony and fixed the 25th day of Kislev.
They lit the whole temple as a dedication to the worship of Zeus. To light the temple Judah and his men required oil. They searched for oil everywhere and at last found a little flask that had sufficient oil to light the menorah for one day. But miraculously the oil ended for eight days. By this time they could manage more oil and keep the menorah lit. This event is remarkable in history which led to a celebration and a tradition. Hence forth Jewish celebrated the festival of Hanukkah lighting candles or lamps in a menorah for eight days. (The oil lasted miraculously for eight days.) Today, it is a much awaited festival among the Jewish people.
This interesting history of Hanukkah has many faces. Different historians have different theories and arguments. There is a lesser known history of Judith, a widow who beheaded the general of Greek soldiers Holofernes, after she had plied him with enough cheese and wine until he was into a drunken state of unconsciousness. History is like that ever! It is written and re-written.
The tradition of getting gifts on each day of the eight day celebrations of Hanukkah is a recent business. It is believed that since Christians exchange gifts at Christmas, Jewish too started the tradition of exchanging gifts other than coins at Hanukkah. Traditional foods consumed during the festival are mostly fried in oil which is again symbolic to the miraculous oil that lasted for eight days.