Hanukkah for 2010 starts at sundown on Dec. 1. The observance, in keeping with ancient Hebrew tradition, lasts for eight days and nights. The Hanukkah observance will end at sunset on Dec. 9.
The story of Hanukkah
Hanukkah — alternately spelled Chanukah, Hannukkah, or Chanukkah — or the Festival of Lights, originated in the second century BCE (Before Common Era, the new name for BC), in or around the year 165 BCE. The short version, without going into detail, is that the revolt of the Maccabees successfully kicked the Selucid Empire out of Judea by 165 BCE, and the Second Temple in Jerusalem was rededicated and purified. The Second Temple, according to legend, was built on the ruins of the First Temple, or the Temple of Solomon. The Maccabees discovered only a single jar of sacred olive oil was usable for burning in a menorah in observance of their religious rites after the re-dedication of the temple. It was thought to be enough to burn for a single day, but it lasted for eight days and nights, thus creating the observance of Hanukkah. There are several alternate explanations for how Hanukkah began.
During Hanukkah, one candle, the leftmost candle, is lit on the first night. Every night, another candle is lit, so two on the second, three on the third and so on. It isn’t necessary that the same candles be lit every night, only that the correct number of candles are lit in the evening, beginning with the leftmost candle and moving to the to right. Blessings and hymns are typically said during the candle lighting, although practices can differ.
Typically, families observing Hanukkah will eat foods that are fried or baked in olive oil, given the significance of olive oil, such as latkes (fried potato pancakes) and other foods like sufganiyot (basically donuts). Other traditions include playing the dreidel game. Giving gifts and Hanukkah gelt, or money, often to children, round out this winter holiday. Happy Hunakkah to all!