What Do You Do on Hanukkah for a Day?

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The Jewish Festival of Lights falls in the dark season. This commemorates three important events in the history of the Jewish people that tell of self-assertion and the preservation of religion, namely the liberation from Hellenistic rule, the second consecration of the temple in Jerusalem – and a miracle of light that lasted eight days. In memory of this, special prayers are said in the synagogue in the morning. In the evenings, the families meet at home and always light a new candle on Hanukkah – until all eight candles are burning. In times of the pandemic, celebrations are less boisterous and quieter.

Hanukkah is a so-called semi-holiday – a day that does not go back to biblical commandments, but to historical events. That is why Jewish believers can only commemorate the rescue of Israel from Hellenistic foreign rule more than 2,000 years ago after the work has been done.

The Miracle of Light

The occupiers made life difficult for the Jews with constant new commands and laws. In the end, they also banned them from practicing religion. The Jews defend themselves against this. Led by Judas Maccabeus and his brothers, they defeated the Seleucids in the so-called Maccabee Rebellion in the 2nd century BC and also recaptured their temple in Jerusalem. When they wanted to take it back and purify it first, they found only a small residue of consecrated oil to light up. Miraculously, however, it burned not just for one but for eight days, as a Talmud legend tells. Just as long until new, kosher oil was produced. The dedication of the temple (Hanukkah habajit) was celebrated in 164 BC. According to the Jewish calendar on 25 Kislew.

Why is celebrated for eight days

To commemorate this miracle, a new candle is lit from the eight-armed Hanukkah candlestick in Jewish homes and synagogues each evening during the Festival of Lights. For this, the ninth candle is used, which is called “Shamash” (servant). The ritual of lighting also includes blessings and prayers: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who worked wonders on our fathers in those days at this time.” The candles are lit from right to left, the new one always first.

Jewish Festival of Lights Hanukkah is celebrated quietly again

The Jewish Festival of Lights begins on Sunday afternoon with the lighting of the first light on the Hanukkah candlestick. Because of the corona pandemic, Thuringia is again celebrating quietly.

Family party with spinning tops and latkes

According to tradition, from sunset to midnight, as long as the lights are on, people don’t work in the house, but sing and play. The Trendl or Dreidel game with a four-sided spinning top bearing four Hebrew characters is popular. They result in the saying: “A great miracle happened here.” In addition, the children are given presents every evening, and there are special dishes such as latkes, a type of potato pancake, and sufganiot, shortbread cookies baked in oil.

At the end of Hanukkah, all eight lights are lit. So that the believers remember the miracle of light and God’s presence, many Jews place their Hanukkiah on their window sills and doorways. In doing so, they testify to their faith, their trust in God and often also their pride in being Jews.

Hanukkah ceremony at the memorial in Leipzig

Like last year, the festival falls under the restrictions of the pandemic for the second time. Nevertheless, the 2020 festival in Leipzig was celebrated with a special ceremony. Saxony’s state rabbi Zsolt Balla inaugurated an eight-armed Hanukkah candlestick at the memorial site of the former Great Synagogue. Representatives of the Jewish community, the Leipzig city administration and residents were present to set a sign for peace and community with the symbolic joint act of lighting candles. The 3.50 meter high electric candle holder was made by the theater workshops of the Leipzig Opera and is to be set up at the memorial every year for Hanukkah.

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