Issue Date: October 22, 1996
City: Washington, DC
Printed By: Avery Dennison
Printing Method: Photogravure
Hanukkah or the Jewish Festival of Lights, as it is sometimes called, begins on the 25th of the Hebrew month Kislev and lasts for eight days. On the first evening, just after dark, one candle is lit on the menorah, a special eight-branched candelabrum. Each night, another candle is lit until on the last night there are eight candles burning.
The origins of Hanukkah can be traced back more than 2100 years ago when Judah Maccabee and his followers liberated Jerusalem from Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Devoted to the political and cultural ideas of ancient Greece, Antiochus had enacted a number of anti-Jewish decrees and defiled the Holy Temple in an effort to destroy the Jews’ religion. Eventually they rebelled, and amazingly, after a three-year struggle, were able to defeat the Greek Army.
After their victory, the Jews set about cleansing and repairing the Holy Temple. When it came time to kindle the Holy Light, only one small jar of oil could be found – enough to burn the light for one day. Miraculously, the light burned for eight days and nights, long enough to prepare a fresh supply of consecrated oil. The next year the leaders of Israel declared that every year on the 25th of Kislev all Jews should celebrate the miracle of Chanukah (dedication). Today, the menorah’s flame has come to symbolize tolerance, diversity, strength, and perseverance.
This stamp was the first in the Postal Service's new Holiday Celebrations series, which highlights different cultural or ethnic holidays. Featuring a contemporary image of a menorah and nine multi-colored candles, the design reflects the festive quality of Hanukkah. Like the Riverboat stamps, this issue was only produced as a self-adhesive and could be separated from the sheet using the simulated die-cut perforations.