Whether you’re new to the tradition or simply want to learn more, understanding the reasoning behind and traditions of Hanukkah can bring you closer to your Jewish loved ones this holiday season. Here’s a brief overview of how and why the eight days and nights of Hanukkah are celebrated.
Why Hanukkah is Eight Days Long
Hanukkah is, according to most accounts, the celebration of a miracle that is described in the Talmud. Per the description, the Jewish people protecting the Second Temple found that most of their oils, which they used for light, had been “defiled” or unsealed and made unclean by the invading Greeks.
They found a single, unopened container of oil, but it contained only enough supply for one day of light. However, they were shocked and awed when the oil burned incredibly slowly, and lasted an additional seven nights, meaning that they had miraculous light for eight nights total.
In commemoration of this, Jewish people who celebrate Hanukkah light one candle for each of the eight nights of the celebration. The candles are held on a menorah and offer a stronger, physical representation and connection to the miracle as it occurred, and the connection between the Jewish people and God.
The Eight Days of Hanukkah
Hanukkah is held from Kislev 24 in the Jewish calendar (or, this year, December 18 in the Gregorian calendar) to Tevet 1 (or, this year, December 25).
Each night, a new candle is placed and lit on the menorah, going from left to right. On the first night, the shamash (or helper) candle is lit, and is then used to light the first candle on the far right. On the next night, a candle is added to the left of the first candle, then the candles are lit from left to right.
This pattern repeats until the last day when there are nine total candles lit – the shamash and the eight daily candles.
While there are different traditions for all families for each night, and each family celebrates a bit differently, Hanukkah normally begins with a recounting of the miracle of Hanukkah and ends with some kind of either gift-giving, party, or feast (again, it varies from family to family). Some people give gifts each night, while others only give gifts on the last night.
Hanukkah is a time of family, faith, and joy. If you’re looking to celebrate but aren’t sure what to get for your loved ones, consider Kosherline’s array of kosher gift baskets. With offerings of fruit, nuts, sweets, and wine, there’s bound to be something for your loved ones to enjoy in all of our Hanukkah gift baskets.