Hanukkah | Jewish holidays and their meaning

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Was ist Hanukkah

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah, or Hanukkah or Festival of Lights, is an important religious holiday in Judaism.  It is celebrated every year to commemorate the rededication of the 2nd Jewish Temple by Judah the Maccabee in Jerusalem.

Hanukkah commemorates the Jews’ struggle for religious independence and against oppression. 

Around 175 BC, Antiochus IV Epiphanes tried to force the Jews to adopt a Greek way of life through his Hellenization laws. However, the Maccabees, i.e. the leaders of the Jewish revolt, ended his rule and reintroduced the Jewish temple service.

When is Hanukkah?

Now we have already answered the question “What is Hanukkah? Now, however, it remains to be answered when Hanukkah is. The Jewish festival is celebrated every year with a duration of 8 days and begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev.

Therefore, according to our calendar, the festival always takes place in November or December. Hanukkah 2021 will take place from November 28 to December 5. Each day of the festival begins on the eve, because in the Jewish calendar the day does not last from 0 to 24 as it does in our country. Instead, a day always goes from the eve to the evening of the following day.

The duration of the festival also has a special meaning. It is said that the menorah – a seven-branched candelabrum – in the temple should never go out. However, the amount of oil available to light the menorah was only enough for one day, and it would take 8 days to make new oil. However, miraculously, the menorah did burn for 8 days and by then the new oil was ready. Traditionally, a new light of the menorah is lit on each of the 8 days until they are all burning and the Jewish festival is over. 

How do you celebrate Hanukkah?

Traditionally, Hanukkah is celebrated at home with family or friends. It is also often celebrated together with the community. After the lights are lit in the evening, religious songs are sung, the Hanukkah story is told, and children play with their dreidel. Today, the lights are lit not only at home, but also in synagogues or public places.

Geschenke Hanukkah

Hanukkah gifts

It is a beautiful gesture to give gifts for Hanukkah and make your loved ones happy. It’s not the value of the gift that matters, but the gesture!


Over time, the custom of giving gifts, especially to children, for Hanukkah developed. A common gift is money. Sometimes Hanukkah coins are also used, which resemble chocolate talers. Giving money or talers is meant to teach children the importance of sharing. Also, children are encouraged not to keep all the money for themselves, but to donate it to charity.


A dreidel is a traditional toy in Judaism. It is a spinning top with four sides that is spun during Hanukkah. Each side shows a Hebrew letter. Children usually play with it for sweets. Depending on which side the dreidel falls on, it stands for something different. 

If it falls on נ, nothing happens. However, if it falls on ג, you get the entire stake. Afterwards, each player must place another candy in the center of the table. If ה, you win half the stake. On the fourth ש, each player must place a candy in the center of the table. The game continues until only one player has any candy left in front of him. The player who can no longer place a candy has lost. 

Hanukkah Geschenke Dreidel

Menora bzw. Chanukkia

Another very traditional gift for Hannukah is the menorah and is usually a seven-branched candelabrum. The menorah is a symbol of Judaism. For Hanukkah, on the other hand, an eight- or nine-branched candelabrum is usually used and lit for Hanukkah. This is called a “Hanukkah.” The candle in the center is the so-called “servant” and is used to light other candles after all the blessings have been said. There are either candles in the hanukkia or alternatively olive oil can be lit. The burning hanukkia is then placed in front of the front door or in the window, so that all people can see that the special festival has now begun.

Hanukkah Geschenke

Traditional dish

Perhaps you have Jewish friends and they have invited you to their Hanukkah celebration? Since you probably have little experience with the religion and its traditions, you should first read up on the history of the holiday so you know what will happen. Surely, the hosts will be very pleased when they realize that you have been involved with their religion. Therefore, they will be very impressed if you prepare a traditional dish.

First of all, they eat food baked in oil. For example, you could prepare “sufganiyot”, which means baked doughnuts, or “latkes”, which are potato pancakes. Your friends will be very happy!

You are interested in Jewish holidays and holidays of different religions? We have already written an article about Easter, Pentecost or German Unity Day. Feel free to check out our website www.paratito.com.

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