Jews around the world will spend eight days celebrating Hanukkah, or the Jewish Festival of Lights, this month.

Between December 7th and 15th, millions of candles will be lit on a menorah to commemorate the Jewish people's fight for religious freedom.

Here are five facts you might not know about the festival:

1. Hanukkah is the only Jewish holiday not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible

Unlike other important Jewish holidays, Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. Instead, its origins date back to the mid-2nd century BC.

During this time, a Syrian king tried to get the Jewish people to worship the Greek gods. However, a small group of Jews called the Maccabees rebelled and eventually recaptured Jerusalem from the Syrians after a three-year war.

During the battle his temple was destroyed and after building it again the people dedicated it again to God by lighting a lamp.

Only a small pot of oil was found burned, enough for one day, but miraculously the lamp remained burning for eight days and Hanukkah celebrates this miracle.

Donuts fried in oil called sufganiyot in Hebrew


2. Hanukkah means eating donuts

To commemorate the miracle of the lighting lamp, Jews often eat foods fried in oil and that means donuts.

Sufganiyot is a fried round donut filled with jam or cream and covered with powdered sugar. It is served at meals throughout the holiday.

3. Chocolate Coins

Chocolate coins or gelt (money in Yiddish) wrapped in gold and silver are exchanged on Hanukkah.

The origin of Hanukkah gelt is unclear, however, the coins are believed to be a symbol of the independence that ancient Jews gained after the three-year battle with Syria when they were able to make their own coins.

A Dreidel is spun as part of a competition during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah


4. Spinning the Dreidel

Gelt is also used in a game played with a dreidel called a dreidel on Hanukkah.

Players sit in a circle and place a chocolate coin in the middle. Each person spins the cube-shaped top, which has a Hebrew letter on each side.

The letter the top shows when it finishes spinning determines whether players win or lose coins.

Children also traditionally sing a song called I have a little Dreidel during celebrations.

5) Gift exchange

Traditionally, Jews only exchanged gifts on Purim, a Jewish holiday that commemorates the time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination by a young girl named Esther.

However, as Christmas became more prominent in the late 19th century and consumerism of the Christian holiday grew, Jewish custom shifted to imitating Christmas.



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