Hanukkah sameach! (“Happy Hannukah” in Hebrew!) This year, the Jewish Festival of Lights begins on 22 December.
The holiday was created to help remember events that took place more than 2,000 years ago, when Israel was ruled by a king of Syria.
That king was named Antiochus, and his reign was brutal. Thousands of Jews were murdered in Jerusalem. Statues to Greek gods were erected in the ancient city’s Second Temple. Following Judaism was outlawed.
Jews were told to worship the Greek gods instead — but a rebellion, led by the Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons, eventually drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem.
The Second Temple was rebuilt to celebrate their victory. Its menorah (a candle with seven branches that represents God’s presence) was lit. Although there was only a tiny amount of oil, the menorah burned for eight days.
That miracle is why Hanukkah is now celebrated as an eight-day festival. Traditionally, Jews will light one candle of a menorah each night, as well as exchanging gifts and playing games.
It is also a time to remember the struggles that Jewish people have faced throughout history — and the decision to rededicate themselves to their faith.
Read Our Story
A BBC Teach animation tells the story of Hanukkah.
- Make a Hanukkah card to celebrate the holiday! If you are not sure what to include, try drawing a menorah.
- Think of something that you would like to “rededicate” yourself to next year. This could be something you used to enjoy but have stopped doing, or something that you still do and want to do more of. Write a sentence explaining what it is and why you want to do it.