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5 Things to Know About Hanukkah

A special edition of 5 things for you today.

Sundown this evening marks the beginning of the eight-day celebration of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah. So, in light of the holiday season, we prepared a special 5 things segment of things you may not know about the winter holiday.

1. Modern-day thinking - Some Jews in North America and Israel have taken up environmental concerns in relation to Hanukkah's "miracle of the oil", emphasizing reflection on energy conservation and energy independence. An example of this is the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life's renewable energy campaign.*

2. Let's eat! - Many traditional Hanukkah foods are cooked in oil, in remembrance of the oil that burned in the temple. In the United States, the most widespread Hanukkah food is latkes, or potato pancakes, a custom that may have developed in Eastern Europe. In Israel, the favorite Hanukkah food is sufganiya, a kind of jelly donut cooked in oil. Israelis eat sufganiyot for more than a month before the start of Hanukkah.**

3. Dreidel differences - On dreidels sold in Israel, the fourth side is inscribed with the letter פ (Pe), rendering the acronym נס גדול היה פה (Nes Gadol Haya Po, "A great miracle happened here"), referring to the fact that the miracle occurred in the land of Israel. Stores in Haredi neighbourhoods sell the traditional Shin dreidels as well.*

4. Pennsylvania Observances in Colonial Times - Pennsylvania practiced broad religious tolerance, but its oath of office kept non-Christians from public trusts through the mid-eighteenth century. Nevertheless, by the 1730s there were about a hundred practicing Jews in Pennsylvania, most in Philadelphia, some in outlying settlements. The Jewish population swelled to about a thousand during the Revolution. In 1782, the largely refugee community founded Congregation Mikveh Israel and dedicated the city's first synagogue on Cherry Street and Sterling Alley.***

5. Listing of future dates - The dates of Hanukkah are determined by the Hebrew calendar. Hanukkah begins at the 25th day of Kislev and concludes on the 2nd or 3rd day of Tevet (Kislev can have 29 or 30 days). The Jewish day begins at sunset, whereas the Gregorian calendar begins the day at midnight. Hanukkah begins on sunset of the date listed.*

  • Dec. 8, 2012
  • Nov. 27, 2013
  • Dec. 16, 2014
  • Dec. 6, 2015
  • Dec. 24, 2016
  • Dec. 12, 2017
  • Dec. 2, 2018
  • Dec. 22, 2019
  • Dec. 10, 2020

* - Information derived from Wikipedia.

** - Information derived from FactMonster.com

*** - Information derived from History.org

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