Everything you need to know to celebrate the Festival of Lights.
Hanukkah 2012 begins at sunset on Saturday, December 8, and ends at nightfall on Sunday, December 16, when three stars are in the sky. When Hanukkah starts directly after Shabbat, as it does this year, first the havdalah ceremony is performed, and the havdalah candle is lit. Following this, the Hanukkah candles are lit.
What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights. As winter approaches and the nights grow longer, the lights of the Hanukkah menorah remind us that even in darkness, there is light. It commemorates the rededication of the Temple following its debasement and the restrictions on Jewish practice by Antiochus, the Syrian Greek king, and his overthrow by the Maccabees.
How do we celebrate Hanukkah?
Each night we light the hanukkiah, or menorah. On the first night we light one candle. Each subsequent night, we add one additional candle, through the eighth and final night.
But what about the food?
There are plenty of Hanukkah foods! Most are made with oil, commemorating the oil from the menorah in the Holy Temple. You can make several different varieties of latkes, including veggie latkes and cajun latkes. Other foods include sufganiyot, traditional jelly donuts, and bimuelos, Sephardic deep-fried pastry balls. Or make your own traditions, such as Hanukkah cupcakes!
And what about gifts?
There are many different opinions about Hanukkah gift-giving. For a brief history of the practice, as well as contemporary thinking about it, see our gift-giving page. And if you're in the market for some Hanukkah gifts yourself, check out our 2012 Hanukkah Gift Guide. A share of all sales goes to support our work at MyJewishLearning.com.