The Jewish Festival of Lights

By Jenn D. RSS Thu, December 10, 2020

The night of Thursday, December 10 begins the Jewish Festival of Lights known as Hanukkah.

That much we can agree on, eh? Well, err, kind of. Yes, the holiday begins on Thursday evening, but what is the correct spelling, in English, of the occasion? That is more complicated than the celebration itself!

The good news is that you’re likely not incorrect in your spelling. This is important to us at an institution like the Free Library! In brief, because the English name is a transliteration of the Hebrew word, חֲנֻכָּה spelling the holiday either with an H as in Hanukkah or Ch as in Chanukah is acceptable. Please, though, if you use Ch, throw a bit of authentic Hebrew gutturalness behind it. It sounds impressive and it feels good on the throat, too. Just wear a face mask if you go that route with people outside of your immediate household! For a Philly-specific investigation into the spelling, enjoy this piece on Billy Penn by Dan Levy.

The date of the beginning of the holiday varies from year to year because it is based upon the Hebrew calendar. So some years we celebrate in late November and other years not until late December. However, regardless of the date of commencement, the celebration lasts for eight nights and, true to its Festival of Lights name, brings some light to these dark winter days in the form of the candles on the menorah, a type of candelabra, used just for this occasion. Remember to use the shamash (the tallest or "unique" candle) to light the other candles, from right to left, one for each respective night.

Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt. Though a minor holiday in religious significance, it is majorly delicious. Try your hand at making latkes (fried potato pancakes) to celebrate the miracle of the historic oil lasting for eight days, despite the quantity indicating only enough for one day. Enjoy a game or two of dreidel (a spinning top) with the little ones, sing songs such as "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" and, always a favorite at our house, listen to Adam Sandler’s classic holiday tune.

As always, the Free Library has books and music for you to borrow or download on Hanukkah and nearly every other imaginable topic.

Enjoy browsing our catalog for titles and a very Happy (C)han(n)uk(k)ah to you and yours!


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