During this festive season, in countries all over the world, different cultures will be celebrating, commemorating and giving thanks in different ways. The festive season gives us a great opportunity to share some insight into these traditions and celebrations with our friends and colleagues. 

Today marks the start of the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah; here’s everything you need to know about the Jewish celebration.

So, what is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. After outlawing the Jewish religion and Jewish practices, then-King Antiochus IV ordered Jews to worship Greek gods in the Temple. Eventually, Jewish priest Mattahias, his son Judah Maccabee, and their army (creatively called The Maccabees) revolted, ultimately forcing the King out of Judea. Maccabee and his followers reclaimed the Temple.

Why is it referred to as the ‘Festival of Lights’?

You may have heard Hanukkah referred to as ‘The Festival of Lights’ and might already be familiar with a menorah. Menorahs have long been a symbol used in Judaism, and when the temple was reclaimed by the Maccabee, they relit the menorahs. The soldiers only had enough oil to light the menorah for a single night, but the story goes that the little bit of oil lasted for eight full nights. Thus, the Miracle of Hanukkah. That’s why the celebration lasts eight nights.
Although most people use the word menorah in the context of Hanukkah, what observers are actually lighting is called a hanukkiah (ha-noo-kee-ah). It looks very similar to a menorah with eight prongs, but has a ninth candle, the Shamash, used to light the other candles.

How else do people celebrate the holiday?

Many modern Jewish families celebrate by lighting the hanukkiah. One candle per night of Hanukkah is lit, like Hebrew is read, from right to left. People might also play dreidel games and eat certain foods fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of the Maccabees’ long-burning oil.

What is a dreidel and why is it played on Hanukkah?

A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with Hebrew letters (Hay, Gimel, Nun and Shin) on each surface signifying the rules of the game. When the King was in power, all Jewish practices were outlawed, including reading and studying the sacred Jewish text, the Torah. When soldiers would come through Jewish communities, those studying the Torah in secret would pretend to play the dreidel game so as not to be caught and arrested. 
The diversity of our people is one of the things that makes Carnival UK a great place to work. If you’re celebrating something this holiday season let us know.
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