Issue Date: October 24, 2008
City: New York, NY
Hanukkah is a Jewish festival that celebrates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem and a miracle that occurred there. In 165 B.C., Judah Maccabee led a revolt against Palestine’s ruler, Syrian King Antiochus IV, who forbade the practice of Judaism. The king also defiled the Temple of Jerusalem by using it to worship the pagan god Zeus. Maccabee defeated Antiochus and took control of Jerusalem.
To rededicate the Temple, oil was needed for a burning light to symbolize the strength of God. Legend states that only enough oil to last one day could be found, but miraculously, the oil burned for eight days. Since that time, Hanukkah is celebrated each year for eight days, beginning on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the Gregorian calendar (usually December). During the festive celebration, families gather together to light eight candles in a menorah (candelabrum shown on cachet) just after sunset. A ninth candle (shammes) on the menorah is used to light the candles, one more each day until all are lit.
Other traditions include singing and eating fried foods in memory of the miracle of the oil. Children often receive gifts or money and chocolate coins (gelt) that may be used to bet on the game of dreidel. The dreidel, shown on the 2008 Hanukkah stamp, is a spinning top with Hebrew letters and pictures.