Hanukkah, Chanukah, Feast of Lights or Luminaire, is a Hebrew celebration that begins on the 25th of Kislev according to the Jewish calendar, and runs for eight calendar days, until day 2 of Tevet.
In the Roman calendar it approaches December 22, which coincides with the winter solstice. However, its meaning is based on a biblical account.
Indeed, the Hanukkah festival commemorates two concatenated events: the independence of the Jews from the Seleucid Greeks, and the purification of the second temple in Jerusalem, events that occurred in the time of the Maccabees.
The king of Syria, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175 and 164 BC), had intended to Hellenize the Jewish people and force him to embrace paganism.
At that time, leader Yehuda Macabi had managed to capture the attention of a group of rebels, called Maccabees, who resisted the dominators and fought to defend their religious identity.
Although the fight was unequal, as the Greeks outnumbered the Maccabees, the Maccabees gradually found a way to expel the Seleucids and regain control of the second temple in Jerusalem.
According to the Talmud accounts, when the Maccabees returned to Jerusalem they found the temple desecrated. The menorah, a seven-armed candlestick that must be permanently lit, was turned off and contained very little sacred oil, which was barely enough for a day.
The oil purification process took about eight days, but despite this, the Maccabees preferred to turn on the menorah light as soon as possible. Surprisingly, the menorah remained lit by itself during the eight days of waiting, which they attributed to a miraculous signal.
Since then, the Jewish people determined that they should celebrate the episode annually, as a way of giving thanks for the miracles granted to the defenders of the faith and, subsequently, to the ancestors.
The main symbol of Hanukkah is a nine-armed candlestick, called januquiá : four on each side and one larger in the center. Each night of Hanukkah a candlelight light must be turned on. Only the first day will be different, because in this one two lights should be turned on: the main arm light and one of the group lights.
This commemoration does not include prohibitions or restrictions of any kind, so that it can be lived alongside everyday life without alterations. However, it is common for families to gather for dinner during these days to contemplate the lighting of candles and to pray their prayers.