What is Hanukkah?

Last updated at 15:29
Family celebrating HanukkahAP
Hanukkah is an important time for Jewish families to come together and celebrate

In the UK, and all around the world, Jewish adults and children celebrate the Jewish festival of lights called Hanukkah.

The date of Hanukkah changes every year, because it depends on the calendar, but it will always fall in November or December.

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What do you enjoy about Hanukkah?

It lasts for eight days and might also be called Chanukah.

The word Hanukkah means "re-dedication" and celebrates one of the greatest miracles in Jewish history.

HanukiahGetty Images
Candles are a hugely important part of the Jewish festival of light, called Hanukkah

But what was this miracle to be celebrated? And how do people mark the festival today?

What's the story of Hanukkah?

The festival reminds Jews of a time over 2,000 years ago, when the Jews won a battle against the Greeks to practise their religion freely.

The Greeks had banned all Jewish rituals. King Antiochus tried to make Jewish people bow down in front of a statue of him that had been put in the Jewish temple, and pray to Greek Gods, but they refused.

A small group of Jews called the Maccabees fought against this and, after a three-year war, they won. However, their Jewish temple had been destroyed.

Maccabees rising up against the GreeksGetty Images
This picture shows the Maccabees rising up against the Greeks

They cleaned and repaired the temple. Then, to celebrate the victory, an oil lamp was lit in it.

There was only enough oil to burn the candle for one day, but miraculously it burned for eight days.

Family lighting a Menorahpushlama
Families mark Hanukkah by lighting an candlestick with eight candles called a Hanukiah - one candle for each night of the festival

This is why the Hanukkah festival lasts for eight days and why light is really important in the celebration.

How is it celebrated?

Hanukkah is a fun time for children, as they will receive gifts and Hanukkah money.

Some families give each other a small present on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.

Traditionally, there is a special game that children and adults play together. It involves a spinning top called a dreidel, which is a cube-shaped dice with a Hebrew letter on each of the four sides.

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How does the dreidel game work?

To begin the game, each player has 10-20 objects, which are often raisins or sweets. Each person puts one object in the middle and takes a turn at spinning the dreidel.

The letter that the dreidel shows when it has finished spinning determines whether they win or lose.

The holiday is also celebrated by lighting an eight-branched candlestick called a Hanukiah.

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What is the Hanukiah?

Jewish people will light one candle for each night of Hanukkah.

What do Jewish people eat at Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is a great time for eating delicious food.

Some dishes have special meaning, such as latkes (which are a kind of potato fritter), pancakes and doughnuts.

LatkesGetty Images
Latkes are a special type of potato fritter that are traditionally eaten at Hanukkah

This is because they are fried in oil and so, by preparing and eating this food, Jewish people remember the miracle of the oil lasting eight days in the temple.