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10 Interesting Facts About Hanukkah

By Edited Aug 12, 2016 2 5

Hanukkah 2016 Begins Saturday, December 24th!

Here is some interesting history about the holiday

These 10 interesting facts about Hanukkah will answer questions for people who have wondered about this Jewish holiday. Chanukah typically falls around the same time as Christmas, and many people mistake Chanukah as a “Jewish Christmas“, which it is not.

Most people are familiar with the symbols of Hanukkah-the Chanukiah or Hanukkah menorah, the dreidel, and chocolate gelt. But what do they mean? And why do Jews around the world celebrate Hanukkah? The following facts about the Hanukkah should answer some of these questions.

10 Interesting Facts About Hanukkah

Photo from freedigitalphotos.net

Interesting Fact About Chanukah #1

Chanukah is not an important religious holiday.

Although Chanukah falls at the same time as Christmas is not an important religious holiday. Chanukah celebrates the military victory of Judah and his band of Maccabees over the Syrian-Greeks. The Syrians had desecrated the Temple and once it had been cleaned and purified, the Jews needed to relight the ner tamid or eternal light. There was only enough pure oil to last one day, but miraculously, it lasted for eight.

Unlike religious holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, schools are open and adults go to work during Hanukkah.

Children's Menorah

12" Hand Painted Chanukah Friends Childrens Ceramic Hanukkah Menorah
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(price as of Aug 12, 2016)
This chanukiyah will become a keepsake.

Chanukah Fact #2

Chanukah menorahs have nine candle holders.

Many people mistakenly call the candleholder used on Chanukah a menorah. While this religious symbol is a menorah, it is a special one with its own unique name – chanukiah. Regular menorahs have six branches and one in the middle making seven altogether. The chanukiah has eight branches and one in the middle, called shamash, or helper candle. On each night of Hanukkah you light one more candle than the night before, starting left to right. That is why there are eight nights of Hanukkah and eight candleholders.

Fact About Chanukah #3

There are 45 candles in a box of Chanukah candles.

Chanukah candles can be made in a variety of shapes and colors. There are 45 in every box. That is the total number of candles you will use for the eight nights of Hanukkah, plus one. I strongly suggest getting two boxes because invariably one will break. Then you will be short to candle on the last night.

Because we light candles, Chanukah is also called “The Festival of Lights”.

Light the Chanukiyah Raibow Style!

Rite-Lite Judaica Deluxe Chanukah Candles, Multicolor. Box of 45`
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(price as of Aug 12, 2016)
My family loves to light their chanukiyot with a rainbow of colors.

Fact About Chanukah #4

Fried foods are eaten on this holiday.

One traditional way to celebrate the miracle of the oil is for Jews to foods cooked in oil during Hanukkah. Potato latkes, or potato pancakes, are a traditional Eastern European Jewish food. While made with white potatoes and onions in the old days, many modern Jews will make potato latkes with sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots, and anything else they can put into the mixture.

In Israel, it is traditional to eat jelly doughnuts called sufganiyot. In Hebrew schools across the United States, children are given jelly donuts as a special treat.

Interesting Fact #5

Chanukah means “dedication”.

The Jews rededicated the Temple after they defeated the Syrians, and so Chanukah means dedication. In Reform Judaism congregations, it is common for either kindergartners or first-graders to have their Consecration ceremony during the holiday of Hanukkah. Consecration is the second lifecycle event for Jewish children. At this time, they are dedicating themselves to their Jewish studies, which will lead to their Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah when they are thirteen.

A Fun Hanukkah Inflatable

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(price as of Aug 12, 2016)
What a fun outdoor Hanukkah decoration for your yard!

Interesting Fact About Chanukah #6

The dreidel game was a ruse.

Playing the dreidel game is a popular and traditional thing to do during Hanukkah. The origin of the game, however, was not based on fun. During the time when Antiochus ruled the Jewish people, it was forbidden for them to study Torah. This did not deter the Jews from studying their sacred text, on the contrary. Jews did study and teach their children Torah, but they kept with them the spinning tops known as dreidels. If a soldier came by, they would hide and pull out the top to play, thus fooling the soldiers.

Interesting Fact About Chanukah #7

Giving Hanukkah gifts is a relatively new phenomenon.

Because of its proximity to Christmas each year, many Jewish parents give their children large presents for each night of Hanukkah. As Christmas has become more commercial, so has Hanukkah. In the past, children were given either a small present or some Hanukkah gelt (money).

Years ago, there were no Hanukkah decorations. Now stores are filled with them. Although some Jewish families have one, there is no such thing as a Hanukkah Bush or Hanukkah Harry. These are inventions of modern society to try to equate Hanukkah and Christmas, which are two totally different holidays.

Interesting Fact About Chanukah #8

Hanukkah never falls on the same date on the Gregorian calendar.

Many non-Jewish people wonder why Jewish holidays don’t fall on the same day every year. The reason for this is because the Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, and most of the Western world follows a solar calendar. A solar year is longer than a lunar year.
In Israel, Hanukkah always falls on the same date, the 25th of Kislev. on the Western calendar, this date can vary.

Interesting Fact About Chanukah #9
There are a lot Hanukkah songs.

While some of the best selling Christmas albums of all time had been performed by Jewish artists, and some of the most beloved Christmas music was written by Jews, some people seem to think that there is only one Hanukkah song.

There is a lot more to Hanukkah music than “I Have a Little Dreidel“.

One that comes to mind is Adam Sandler’s series called The Chanukah Song, written because as a child growing up, there was no holiday music for him. In these three songs Adam Sandler sings about celebrities who are Jewish or have Jewish relatives. It was funny when it was written and it still holds up today.

While you may not hear these on the radio during the month of December, artists such as Debbie Friedman, Mitashayu, and the Maccabeats have created wonderful Hanukkah music for Jews to enjoy during the holiday season.

The Hanukkah Song-A Song for the Season!

Chanukah Fact #10

Hanukkah never falls on the same date on the Gregorian calendar.

Many non-Jewish people wonder why Jewish holidays don’t fall on the same day every year. The reason for this is because the Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, and most of the Western world follows a solar calendar. A solar year is longer than a lunar year.

On the Hebrew calendar, Hanukkah always falls on the same date, the 25th of Kislev. On the Western calendar, this date can vary.

These 10 interesting facts about Hanukkah should help shed some light on the Jewish Festival of Lights.



Oct 27, 2011 5:19pm
These are really interesting facts. I love articles like this. I had a lot of misconceptions about Chanukah that I no longer have.Thank you. Great article!
Nov 23, 2011 1:56am
I did not know many of these at all. Some really interesting facts here Mommyx3.
Nov 27, 2011 9:20pm
I blame Hallmark for almost of the world's evils...

This is fantastic (as I mentioned in another comment on another article, I love the history of The Chosen People). This was brilliant in its execution -- concise and entertaining. I also liked the more "gentle" way you corrected misconceptions (I tend to use a sledgehammer).

I'm a huge fan of obscura -- your mentioning the Chanuka songs reminds me of the 45s I'd find when I was kid -- cantors singing folk songs in Yiddish, etc (my fave translated into "The Little Teacher" and was on BLUE vinyl from 1956).

Finally, other than Sandler's "Hanukkah Song" Saturday Night Live's Hanukkah Harry (as portrayed by Jon Lovitz) was one of the best characters that show ever produced!! ("On Moishe, on Hershel, on Shlomo...")

If I could give you TWO thumbs for this, I would!! (One will have to do).
Nov 27, 2011 9:28pm
I had no idea about the history of dreidels. It certainly elevates the top to more than a mere toy.
Jun 13, 2012 6:24am
Thanks for reading, everyone! I appreciate that you took the time to read this!
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