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The Story of Hanukkah

We are currently in the middle of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of light. Read more about Hanukkah and the story behind this important time of year.

December 14 2020 - 4 min read

The evening of Thursday 10th December marks the beginning of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights.

The word Hanukkah (Chanukah) means ‘Dedication’ in Hebrew and it celebrates a miracle that happened in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. Judaism follows a lunar calendar, so holiday dates shift every year either in November or December and lasts for 8 days.

The Story of Hanukkah

A long time ago a Syrian king called Antiochus banned the Jews from worshiping God. He put a big statue of himself in their temple and ordered them to bow before it.
However, the Jews refused to obey him because the Ten Commandments forbid them to worship anyone other than God.


A small group of Jews called the Maccabees fought back against the kings army.
After three years, they won the war and recaptured Jerusalem from the Syrians
When the Jews went back to their temple, they saw that it had nearly been destroyed.
They cleaned and repaired the temple. When they were finished, they rededicated it to God. They did this by lighting the lamp, which was a symbol of God's presence.
They only had one small jar of oil which was only enough for one day.

However, miraculously the lamp stayed alight for eight days! That is why Jews light a candle every day of Hanukkah.

How is Hanukkah celebrated? 

Gifts - Hanukkah is a very special time for Jews so people often give each other gifts and Hanukkah money called Gelt. Some families give a small present to children on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.

Hanukiah - Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting one candle on a nine-stemmed candelabrum called a hanukiah each day. The hanukiah symbolises how God looked after the Jewish people during a difficult time. Lots of Jews call this candelabrum a menorah.

Games - Games are often played at Hanukkah. The most common game uses a dreidel which is a spinning top with four sides.

Food - Hanukkah is a great time for eating delicious foods. Some dishes have special significance, such as latkes (a kind of potato fritter), pancakes and doughnuts. This is because they are fried in oil. When they make them, Jewish people remember the miracle of the oil lasting eight days in the temple.