Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah and Chanukkah) begins this year at nightfall on Sunday, December 6th and ends eight days later on December 14th.
The holiday is often called the Festival of Lights or Feast of Dedication because it celebrates the re institution of holy and religiously beautiful worship in the Temple of Jerusalem.
The Jewish people revolted against an attempt to forcefully desecrate the temple by erecting a statue of Zeus with sacrifices of pigs within the temple. After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC (BCE), his empire fell apart with the land of Israel being taken over by one of his commanders, Seleucus. His successors of the Seleucid Empire decided to punish a revolt by the Jews with various acculturation measures to wipe out the Jewish religion and identity. One official ordered a Jewish priest Mattathias to do one of the pig sacrifices. Thereupon, Mattathias killed the Seleucid official and with his five sons led a successful revolt.
The priest's son Judas Maccabeus, now touted as "The Hammer," cleansed the temple of its pig blood and statue of Zeus and rededicated it in 165 BC (BCE). The history is recounted in the books I & II Maccabbees, which called the incident "the abomination of desolation" prophesied by Daniel. Jesus picked up this theme. During the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), Jesus spoke about the future great "abomination of desolation" (John 10:22; also Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20). Symbolically, the revival of Jewish worship is celebrated by lighting the Hanukkah candles, one each night. Also, in honor of this return of true worship and Jewish identity, the eight-sided toy spinning top called a dreidel was invented and is sometimes brought out to play with during Hanukkah. Since Hanukkah is especially a family celebration, meals and foods play a big role. Foods associated with the celebration include potato latkes, brisket, noodle kugel, donuts and challah bread. According to the last Jewish Community Study of New York, in 2011, 68 percent of Jews in the New York City area light Hanukkah candles — about the same proportion that attend a Passover seder but more than those partaking of any other Jewish rite, including fasting on Yom Kippur.
Meet Richard and Tanya Simon as they read from their new picture book Oskar and the Eight Blessings:
Sunday,December 6, 11:30 AM in Manhattan at the New York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West;
Saturday, December 12, 11:00 AM in Brooklyn at Book Court, 163 Court Street.
There are various parties and Hanukkah events at local synagogues. Also, check out: