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Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew. The story of Hanukkah begins with the victory of the Maccabees, an army of Jewish fighters, over the forces of Hellenic emperor Antiochus IV, whose supporters had desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem by building an altar to the Greek god Zeus.
After reclaiming the Temple and preparing to rededicate the holy space, the worshippers discovered that only one small jar of consecrated oil remained — enough to last one day. Rather than wait for more oil to arrive, they lit the Temple menorah, which miraculously burned for eight days.
The miracle of the oil is celebrated with the ceremonial lighting of the hanukkiah, the nine-branch candelabra used only at Hanukkah. The hanukkiah, also called menorah, holds eight candles, one for each night of Hanukkah, plus one known as the “shamash,” which means the servant or helper candle used to light the others.
The candle for the first night is put on the far-right side of the menorah. On each subsequent night, an additional candle is placed to the immediate left of the previous night’s candle. The candles are lit from left to right, so that the lighting begins with the newest candle.
A family-centered holiday, Hanukkah celebrations usually take place in people’s homes, with games, songs, gifts and feasting. Traditional fried foods include latkes — potato pancakes — and doughnuts called sufganiyot.
Hanukkah begins on the 25th of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, a date that falls in late November or December. In 2022, Hanukkah begins at sundown on Dec. 18.
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Love Flourishes (U.S. 2018)