A Brief History of Hannakah

Hannakah history began over 2,000 years ago when the Syrian-Greek leader, Antiochus IV, attempted to force the Jews in Israel to assimilate completely and to renounce their religion and culture. Judah Maccabee led the revolt against the Syrian-Greek army and was victorious, despite the fact that the Jewish army was greatly outnumbered.

The Hannakah celebration of lighting the menorah traces its origin to a miracle that occurred after the victory of the Maccabees. The Temple in Jerusalem had been defiled by the invading Syrian-Greek army. It was traditional to light a special lamp in the Temple, called a menorah, with olive oil, but all of the vials of oil were made impure, with the exception of one. According to Hannakah history, the one vial of oil burned for eight days until pure oil could be obtained for the holy Temple. In gratitude, the Jews began lighting small menorahs in their homes to commemorate this miracle.

The Hannakah celebration began in the years following the victory, and was observed by lighting a menorah with eight branches (to symbolize the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days) and a ninth holder for a shamash, or "servant" candle that is meant to light the others. The Hannakah celebration is focused on the home, although nowadays there are many large menorahs lit in public areas. The reason for these public Hannakah celebrations is to publicize the miracle.

While the candles are burning, the family traditionally sings Hannakah songs such as Mao Tzur, Haneiros Hololu or "I Have a Little
Dreidel. Traditional foods, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and jelly donuts are eaten. The reason foods fried in oil are an important part of the Hannakah celebration is to commemorate the miracle that was associated with oil. Dairy foods, such as blintzes, are eaten to commemorate the role of Judith in Hannakah history; she was the Jewish heroine who gave the Syrian-Greek general, Holofernes, salty cheese that made him thirsty enough to drink too much wine. Once he fell asleep drunk, she killed him with his sword.

The dreidel is a toy, like a top, that is played while the menorah is burning. It has its origin in Hannakah history; Antiochus refused to allow children to learn their scripture and laws, so the children would play with a dreidel to disguise the fact that they were reciting verses. The dreidel has Hebrew letters on each side, each one with the initial letter of the phrase "A great miracle happened there" (or, for Israeli dreidels, "here")

The basic Hannakah celebration is the same all over the world, with a few slight variations. In Yemen, children traditionally collect menorah wicks by going door to door (they also ask for candy). In Aden, children wear blue clothing on Hannakah to symbolize the heavens. In Germany, all the leftover wicks are burned on a bonfire on the last night of Hannakah. Different Hannakah songs are sung, depending on the country.

Since the word "Hannakah" is originally written in the Hebrew alphabet, there is no standardized spelling in English, but common spellings are "Hanukkah", "Chanukah", "Hanukah" and "Hanuka". The name "Hannakah" is associated with the most important aspect of Hannakah history: the rededication of the Holy Temple (Hannakah means "dedication"). Hannakah is also referred to as "The Festival of Lights".

The Hannakah celebration is one of the most joyful in the Jewish calendar. It is embraced worldwide, not just because of its happy theme, but also because of its emphasis on light in the darkest time of the year (at least in the West), when the days are short and the nights are long.

History of The Menorah And The Dreidel

Anyone who is interested in the history of Hannukah will know that the Menorah plays a large part in the celebrations. This is a candelabra that will hold nine candles in total. The candle in the centre of the Menorah is slightly higher than the other candles and this should remain lit at all times. The centre candle is used to light the other candles that are on either side of it.

The Menorah story goes back to the time when the Holy Temple was rededicated and there was not enough oil to light the Menorah in the Temple. In fact there was only enough oil to last for one day, but it lasted for an amazing eight days. It is from here that the tradition of celebrating Hannukah for eight days originated from. Today one candle is lit each day during the course of Hannukah until each one is lit by the eighth day.

The Dreidel And Hannukah

The dreidel is another item that is commonly associated with the history of Hannukah. A dreidel is a four sided toy that is used like a spinning top. Each of the four sides of the dreidel is marked with a Hebrew letter, each of which represents a letter from the Hebrew sentence ‘Nes Gadol Haya Sham’. The translation of this sentence is ‘A great miracle happened here’ which is a reference to the Hannukah story.

Some believe that there are no clear indications of where the dreidel game actually came from and some people believe it to have stemmed from children’s games from many centuries ago. Others believe that the origins of this game are far more interesting and a key component in the history of Hannukah.

Keeping Religion A Secret With The Dreidel

A much more interesting take on the history of Hannukah relating to the dreidel is that the dreidel was used to study the Jewish religious book, the Torah in secret. Hundreds of years ago Jewish people were banned from practicing their own religion. This led to people finding ways to keep their religion alive in secret and avoid the prying eyes of the inspectors that would to try enforce this unfair ban.

While Jewish students were studying their holy books they would keep a dreidel close by. When they saw the inspectors approaching they would quickly hide their books and pretend that they were playing a simple game together. In this way dreidels helped them to continue practicing their religion without being seen to break the ban and coming under scrutiny from the inspectors.

Why Are There Different Spellings For Hannukah?

Why Are There Different Spellings For Hannukah? Hannukah is a Jewish festival which is also known as the Festival of Light. It is celebrated over 8 days and it is held to remember the time when the Holy Temple was redirected in Jerusalem and is considered as the most important festival in the Jewish calendar. This is a festival that is celebrated by millions all over the world and the common symbol for Hannukah is the Menorah - a nine branched candelabrum. One candle is lit one each night of the celebration using the centre candle.

While this is a festival that is observed by many people there has always been controversy over how Hannukah is actually spelled. In fact the history of Hannukah has shown the word to be spelled up to 16 different ways which can cause a lot of confusion to people wanting to know the right way to spell the word.

Translation From Hebrew To English Is Tricky

The main reason that there are so many different spellings of Hannukah is that translating many words from Hebrew into English is very tricky. Hebrew is a language that uses sounds that are unlike the sounds that are used in English which is why it is so hard to spell. The word Hannukah is written as ????? or ????? in Hebrew and the two most common translations of this are Hanukkah or Chanukah.

As well as Hebrew being tricky to translate into English there are also different pronunciations depending on whether a person is speaking modern or classical Hebrew. Regardless of which version of Hebrew a person is speaking there is no definitive English translation. If a person is speaking modern Hebrew it is assumed that the correct spelling is Chanukah whereas the spelling of the word in classical Hebrew is Hanukkah.

To further complicate matters the spelling of Hannukah has changed greatly over the years. This is due to regional spellings of the word and the fact that many people will try to spell it very much in the way that it sounds. Obviously this has led to the many different spellings that are used today.

Which Is The Correct Spelling?

With so many different spellings around being used by people all over the word it would be accurate to say that there is no one correct spelling of Hannukah. In fact the spelling of the word can vary from community to community. With this in mind it is usually the spelling that individuals use themselves which is the correct version for them.

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