Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah and Chanukkah) 2014 begins on December 16th and runs through the 24th. It is eight days of celebration for the Jewish holiday, which begins at nightfall. The holiday is also referred to as Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication and the reason for the celebration is to commemorate the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. This occurred at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire of the 2nd century BC. Jewish communities in the U.S> celebrate the first day of Hanukkah on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the Jewish calendar.
Hanukkah festivities include playing games with dreidels to win Chanukkah gelt (Yiddish term for money). A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top that children play with and each side has a Hebrew letter on it. The letters are an acronym for the Hebrew words Nes Gadol Haya Sham, meaning “A great miracle happened there”. This refers to the miracle of the oil burning for eight days, which took place in the Beit Hamikdash.
Potato Latkes, brisket, kugel, donuts, and challah bread are some of the foods eaten on the holiday. Each night of the holiday, Jewish families light a candle on their menorah, which is a candelabrum with candle holders symbolizing the eight days of Hanukkah.
Some countries do not celebrate the holiday. It’s reported that:
The first day of Hanukkah is not a public holiday in Israel but it falls within the school holiday period. This event is also not a public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Some Jewish schools in these and other countries have their school vacation fall around the same time of Hanukkah.
The last day of Hanukkah is known as Zose Hanukkah, Zos Hanukkah or Zot Hanukkah.