Chanukah begins on December 18 and concludes December 26
I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone who is celebrating a Happy Chanukah! The first night of Chanukah starts this Sunday, December 18, at nightfall which is when the first candle of the menorah is lit. The final candles are lit on Sunday evening, Dec. 25, and the holiday concludes the following day, Dec. 26.
The story of Hanukkah centers around the Jewish people who, in the second century, were being forced to adopt the Hellenistic culture by the Greeks. This invasion upset the Jews and they ended up overthrowing the Greeks and reclaiming their land and customs. During the battle some buildings and holy places were destroyed. Unfortunately, this included the temple where the Jews worshipped.
Within the temple there was a menorah. When the Jews went to light their menorah there was only enough oil to burn for one day. They lit the menorah with the remaining oil anyway and, miraculously, the oil burned for eight days.
Today, along with lighting the menorah every year, Hanukkah celebrations also include eating foods fried in oil, to commemorate how long the oil lasted. These treats include things like potato pancakes (latkes) and donuts (sufganiyot). Games are enjoyed like playing with a dreidel (a spinning top game) where prizes of chocolate coins (gelt) are won. Jews used to play this same game in secret, hiding it from the Greeks, and they would play for real coins.