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Hanukkah 2020: 8 things you might not know about Hanukkah

Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is an eight-day festival which begins each year on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev.

2. What did we just spell?

The word Hanukkah, by the way, translates to "dedication."

3. What the dedication was all about

A brief history lesson: In 164 BC, the land Jewish people consider "the Holy Land" was ruled by a group that today would comprise parts of Syria and Greece. They wanted the people of Israel to assimilate, but a small band of Jews (led by a fellow named Judah the Maccabee) won a battle, reclaimed their temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the God of Jewish tradition.

4. Why, if it's about temple dedications, are there 'eight crazy nights,' as Sandler puts it?

Because, as legend has it, when the temple dedication team went to light the temple's menorah, they found only enough olive oil to last one day. Miraculously, that supply lasted eight whole days. And thus, Hanukkah was born.

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5. Is it really about the oil lasting eight nights?

Maybe not. Other Jewish texts suggest it wasn’t the oil burning for eight days, but rather a delay in regularly scheduled programming that brought about the modern eight-day Hanukkah tradition. Because the Jewish people of Israel were still in caves fighting during September 164 BC, they didn’t get to celebrate the eight day holiday of Sukkot. The event was postponed until after the Jewish guerrillas won back Jerusalem and reclaimed the temple. Then, the event was back on, and thus Hanukkah was born.

6. The books that describe all of these events aren't in the Hebrew bible.

The books of Maccabees are the ones that describe the retaking of the holy land. And they aren't even in the traditional Hebrew bible. But they are in the Catholic bible. So, there's that.

Right to left, Alex Brown, 11, Gabriel Brown, 11 and Eli Cox, 9, play the dreidel game, a traditional Hanukkah game, at the Dreidel Tournament held at Recycled Reads in 2013.

Right to left, Alex Brown, 11, Gabriel Brown, 11 and Eli Cox, 9, play the dreidel game, a traditional Hanukkah game, at the Dreidel Tournament held at Recycled Reads in 2013.

Credit: Erika Rich

Credit: Erika Rich

7. The game of dreidel was inspired by Irish game.

Besides the menorah, nothing is associated with the holiday traditions of Hanukkah quite like the dreidel. But few realize the game itself comes from Ireland. Originally, the four-sided tops were painted with Latin words. The game dates to an era before the Roman empire. As the empire’s trade routes expanded, the game spread across Europe and eventually became synonymous with Jewish culture.

8. The next "Thanksgivukkah" (sort of), is only 52 years away.

For those who don't know better, Hanukkah can seem like a Jewish Christmas. But it isn't that at all. Nor, despite its proximity in dates to western holidays, is it some kind of post-Thanksgiving buffer holiday. In fact, Hanukkah moves around. The Jewish calendar relies on lunar months of either 29 or 30 days. But the rest of the world goes on the Gregorian calendar. As a result, Hannukah's start date can fall anywhere between November 27 and December 26 in any given year. The next time we see a Thanksgivukkah? 52 years (2070).

Bonus burning fact

There is a height limit for menorahs: 20 cubits — 30 feet — and not a cubit more.

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