Hanukkah this year starts on Sunday, December 18, at dusk through Monday, December 26, at midnight. You might have thought Hanukkah was the Jewish equivalent of Christmas given that it is a well-known holiday observed by a significant number of people all over the world. It has nothing to do with the event, even though Hanukkah is observed around the same time as Christmas.
Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem as well as the extraordinary achievement of one day’s oil lasting for eight days after the Syrian Greeks had desecrated the sanctuary before being vanquished by the Jewish troops known as the Maccabees.
The festival always begins on the 25th of Kislev, which is the ninth month of the Jewish calendar.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac states that Jewish holidays are observed on various dates every year since the Hebrew calendar is based on the lunar cycle. Hanukkah often starts at the end of November or the beginning of December.
Because it includes lighting a menorah, a candelabra with nine stems, Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights and is observed for eight nights. The menorah differs from other candelabras by having a ninth candle, called the shammes or shammash, which is used to light the other eight candles.
According to Chabad, lighting a menorah “typically takes place at home, at a doorway or by a window.”
Playing with dreidels and indulging in festive treats like latkes, potato pancakes, and doughnuts are two other Hanukkah customs.