Hanukkah Holiday - what is it? History and traditions of the Hanukkah festival
Every year in the Jewish world from the 25th Kislev and until the 2-3 th Tevet celebrate a great holiday - Hanukkah. What is "sanctification" and "renewal" that gave the name of this tradition? What symbolizes the custom of lighting candles, delicious food and a celebration lasting eight days? Let's try to understand.
What does "Hanukkah" mean
The word "Hanukkah" in Hebrew consists of two parts. The first, "khan", literally means "they have reached rest". The second, "ka" - a combination of letters, the numerical value of which is twenty-five. It correlates with the military and spiritual victory of the Jews over the Greeks, which happened on the 25th of the month of Kislev (according to the Jewish calendar) in 164 BC.
The name of the holiday "Hanukkah" is derived from the word "lahanot", meaning "dedication" ("sanctification"). On this day, the altar was again consecrated in the Jerusalem temple, which exactly 3 years before this day defiled the idolaters. Nowadays Hanukkah is also called the "Festival of Lights".
History of Hanukkah
Traditionally, Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days. It begins with the 25th day of Kislev, which usually falls on November or December. The event, from which the history of the Hanukkah festival begins, occurred at the time of Alexander the Great (Macedonian), when the territory of present-day Israel was part of Syria, which was in turn the province of the Greek Empire. For a long time Jews and Greeks found a common language. Law-abiding Jews obeyed the rules established by the conquerors, and the successors of Macedonians treated other religions rather tolerantly. However, everything changed when Antiochus IV Epifan appeared on the Syrian throne.
With fire and sword he tried to impose Hellenic religion on the subject peoples. Under pain of death, the Jews were forbidden to circumcise, study the Torah, observe the laws of Shabbat. In the Temple of Jerusalem, at the behest of the king, the altar of Zeus, the chief god of the Hellenistic pantheon, was built.
As a result, a rebellion broke out in Modin, a small settlement near Jerusalem. He was headed by one of the elders of the settlement, Jew Matthew, and after his death, which happened a year later, the rebels continued to lead his son, Judah Maccabee.
In total, the struggle of the Jews for liberation from the Syrian oppression continued for twenty-five years. However, three years after the outbreak of the uprising, Maccabeus managed to liberate Jerusalem. First of all, the winners began to tidy up the defiled church. The idols were thrown out, the broken altar was restored, and instead of the golden menorah (temple lamp) that was stolen, the usual iron was temporarily placed.
However, when it was time to light a menorah in front of the altar, it turned out that all the oil that was in the temple was desecrated. Only one tiny pitcher remained clean, which would be enough for only one day of burning. And to make a new oil it would take eight days ...
And yet the menorah was lit. When this happened, a miracle happened: the light incomprehensibly burned for eight days! The temple was consecrated anew. And now in honor of this event every year there is a celebration of Hanukkah.
What is Chanukiah?
Now that we have become familiar with the historical meaning of the Hanukkah holiday, what is "hanukiya" will also be easy to guess. This is the name of the traditional stand for Hanukkah candles, symbolizing the fortitude of the spirit and the victory of good over evil.
Chanukiah is formed by eight lamps. They symbolize the miracle that occurred during the victory of the Maccabeus over the Greeks. In ancient times it was started to hang it on the street, to the left of the entrance door. However, later, due to the danger of fires, chanukiah was ordered to light inside the houses, placing it on the windowsill - so that the candlelight would remind neighbors and casual passers-by about the Hanukkah holiday.
These lamps are made of any material: tin, marble, brass, porcelain, iron. Those who are richer can afford chanukiahs of gold or silver. Their dimensions are also different: from the very impressive ones, which on the first day Hanukkah are usually lit from government buildings, to modest and small ones, which, as a rule, burn in these days in all Jewish homes.
The order of ignition of lights
In accordance with the custom, the most widespread, the order of the lighting of festive candles these days has its own strict regulations.
On the very first night, the most extreme candle on the right is usually lit. On the second night, another candle is added to the stand, to the left of the one put yesterday. First, they light a new, added candle, then move to the right. This order is repeated every night: first add a single candle, then ignite all alternately, starting with it, from left to right.
How to light a candle
It should also be aware of the tradition of the Hanukkah holiday, what is shamash. This is a special service candle, which is either separated from the other eight candles, or located above them. From shamash every evening, all the main candles are lit, which are located on the same level and a short distance from each other.
According to tradition, the light of these eight candles should serve solely as a reminder of the miracle from which the history of Hanukkah began. They can not be used for any other purposes. Because these candles should be lit from shamash, and not one from the other.
Chanukah: the tradition of lighting lights
Chanukah candles are supposed to be lit in the house where they live permanently, and in that room where they usually take food. The lamp (chanukiah) is installed in a prominent place in the room.
Begin to light Hanukkah lamps, usually in the evening after sunset (according to other information, after the appearance of the first stars in the sky). If for some reason it was not possible at this time, it is allowed to light the lights and say the words of blessing until all members of the family are awake. Anyone who did not have time to do this before dawn, to turn on lights this day should not.
On the last holiday evening all eight candles are lit. As a rule, they are supposed to burn for half an hour after the appearance of the stars. Thus, in those houses where candles were lit immediately after the sun has set, they will shine for a minimum of fifty minutes.
At a time when it is supposed to light Hanukkah lights, it is forbidden to eat, drink or engage in anything.
It is not customary for candles to be lit by women-they are only present when their husband or father lights them, and they answer "Amen!" In response to the words of the blessing that he utters.
The boys are beginning to be attached to the mystery of lighting the Hanukkah lights, usually from the time when they are able to independently light a candle and say a blessing.
Traditional treat for Chanukah
A plentiful treat, accompanied by traditional songs and stories about the miracles performed in those days by the Most High for the ancestors, that's what Hanukah is. For Jews, this holiday is considered cheerful and joyful, therefore it is forbidden to fast or mourn the deceased these days.
In days of Hanukkah it is necessary to prepare traditional dishes. This latkes - potato pancakes, as well as sweet donuts with jam or jam (sufganiya). The way they are cooked - frying in vegetable oil - is also called to recall the miracle on which the history of Hanukkah is based.
In addition, these days eat milk dishes - primarily, made from cheese. As a sauce, sour cream is most often used.
The customs of celebrating Chanukah
In recent decades, more and more people around the world are learning about what Hanukkah is. The Jews had a tradition of lighting huge chanukiahs in the city squares, and tourists who visited Israel on the days when this holiday is celebrated, also have the opportunity to join the ancient customs.
It is interesting that in the days of Hanukkah it is not forbidden to work. However, women, following the ancient custom, as a rule, do not work, while the festive lamps are burning.
During all eight days of the holiday, special prayers are to be inserted in each of the prayers, and during the morning prayer aloud from the Torah is read aloud.
In the days of Hanukkah, Israeli schools are on vacation. Traditionally, on the night of the fourth or fifth day of the holiday, parents often give children toys or money that they can spend on their own. However, some of these funds are supposed to be donated to charity.
Playing a spinning top
There is another curious custom that Hanukkah is famous for. What is a "dreidl", or "svivon", must be known to every Jewish child. This is a special tetrahedral top, in which it is customary to play these days. They play this game, as a rule, on small coins from "Hanukkah money", and also - on sweets, apples or nuts.
In Israel, each vertex of this top has one Hebrew letter written: "nun" (meaning "carried" - "miracle"), "gimmel" ("gadol" - "great"), "hey" ("haya" was ") and" drink "(" on "-" here "). On the tops, played by the children of the Jewish diaspora, the last letter is replaced by "shin", which means "sham" - "there", that is, on Israeli soil.
According to the legend, in those days when the training of the Torah threatened with death, Jewish children came to classes with such tops, and in the event of the appearance of spies or enemies, they started playing with enthusiasm, as if they were here for this. Nowadays this game has remained just an exciting match, serving at the same time as a reminder of the past, as well as many other customs of the Jewish people.