Hanukkah is one of the well-known Jewish holidays. Hanukkah is also known as the festival of lights, as it is a time that celebrates light over darkness.
It is celebrated for eight nights and eight days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev (November-December) in the Hebrew lunar-solar calendar.
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Celebrating light during Hanukkah is emphasised by lighting a candelabrum called a Menorah. The Hanukkah menorah has nine branches instead of the traditional seven-branched menorah that is used in the ancient Temple or as a Jewish symbol. Traditionally, one of the candles is placed above or below the other candles and this candle is used to light the other candles. Blessings are said as each candle is lit.
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Hanukkah involves several religious and non-religious customs, but the lighting of the menorah is the most important custom during this holiday.
Other customs include prayers, scripture reading and singing, along with playing games, the eating of traditional foods like latkes (potato pancakes served with apple sauce), blintzes (cheese-filled pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts) and the giving of gifts.
Due to Hanukkah’s proximity to Christmas in the western world, the giving of gifts is a more modern Hanukkah tradition.
In Israel, Hanukkah is a state holiday, schools are closed and big menorah signs above the parliament buildings are lit up. One of the main events during this eight-day festival is a running relay from Modiʿin to Jerusalem. Runners carry burning torches through the streets and the final torchbearer arrives at the Western Wall, which is the last remnant of the Temple. The torch is then handed to the chief rabbi who uses it to light the first candle in a giant menorah.
It is interesting to note that the story of Hanukkah does not appear in the Torah (the Old Testament) because the events that inspired the holiday occurred after it was written.
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