The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah — also called the Festival of Lights — begins this year on Saturday, Dec. 8 at sundown. In the Hebrew calendar — which is a lunar calendar — Hanukkah is celebrated on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. Hanukah lasts for eight days, and will conclude this year on Sunday night, Dec. 16.
What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah is a celebration commemorating the Maccabean revolt, when the Jewish people fought against the Syrian-Greeks ruled by Emperor Antiochus, after Antiochus forbade Jewish observance. In 168 B.C.E. the Syrian-Greek army sacked the 2nd Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
In fighting back, the Maccabees drove out the Greeks and reclaimed their desecrated holy temple, according to the Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center.
The victors found a one-day supply of olive oil that had not been contaminated by the Syrian-Greeks and used it to light the temple menorah. The miracle of Hanukkah is that the oil — which was supposed to last for only one day — lasted for eight days. As a result, Hanukkah (which means rededication in Hebrew) is celebrated for eight days and eight nights.
Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting one candle on the menorah on the first night, two on the second, until all eight candles are lit on the eighth night of Hanukkah.
Hanukkah customs include eating traditional foods made with oil, such as potato latkes and deep-fried donuts known as sufganiyot, and playing with a spinning top called a dreidel, which is inscribed with the Hebrew acronym for "A great miracle happened there."
Los Angeles has the second largest population of Jews in the United States, with some 519,200, according to the North American Jewish Data Bank. New York City is first with a population of 1.4 million Jews. The percentage of Jewish households in Los Angeles — 7.6 percent — ranks the city 10th on the NAJDB list, topped by South Palm Beach, FL, with 48.6 percent. (New York is fourth with 15 percent.)
How does your family celebrate Hanukkah?