Hanukkah

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Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is observed for eight days and nights. A unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Hanukkah menorah or hanukiah, is used for the Festival. The shamash (attendant or servant) is used as an additional light for kindling the Hanukkah lights and it is given a distinct location (above or below the rest). Kindling of the lights is the pivotal act on Hanukkah; the first light on the right is lit on the first night, and then every subsequent day an additional one is lit. In this manner, all eight lights are lit on the eighth day, thus symbolizing the continual burning of oil in the Temple after the victory of the Maccabees. After kindling the lights, the hymn Hanerot Halalu is recited, which lists the norms for kindling the Hanukkah lights and manners of conduct while they are burning.

Hanukkah is a celebration of the victory of the Maccabees over the Greek-Syrian army led by Antiochus, and of the rededication of the Second Temple that was desecrated during Greek-Syrian occupation. The miracle of Hanukkah consists in the fact that the Hanukkah lights burned for eight days and nights, even though the batch of oil was sufficient for only one day.

Hanukkah is a joyous holiday, especially for children. Traditionally food is fried in oil, such as doughnuts and latkes. All members of the family play the dreidel game (sevivon in Hebrew), and the old custom of giving pocket money to children has changed into giving gifts.

 
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