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07 Dec. 2023

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Hanukkah 2023: how the Festival of Lights is celebrated in the world and Ukraine

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Hanukkah 2023: how the Festival of Lights is celebrated in the world and Ukraine

Hanukkah is one of the most important Jewish holidays, known for the tradition of lighting special Hanukkah candles. Learn more about the history of the holiday, as well as what rituals and traditions believers observe

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Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Eight Candles or the Festival of Lights, is one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar. This celebration, which lasts exactly eight days, celebrates the victory of light over darkness and is full of symbolism and traditions.


Here is the history of the holiday and when Hanukkah is celebrated in 2023.


What is Hanukkah?


Hanukkah is celebrated on the 25th of the month of Kislev in the Jewish calendar, which falls around December or January in the Gregorian calendar. 


This holiday has its roots in historical events when Jews rebuilt the sanctuary in Jerusalem and celebrated the restoration of light to the sanctuary.


In 2023, Hanukkah is celebrated in Ukraine and around the world from the evening of December 7 to the evening of December 25. This year's Hanukkah is considered early.


History of the Hanukkah holiday 


Hanukkah is a holiday that celebrates the victory over the persecutors of the faith and the consecration of the Jerusalem Temple.


In 170 BC, the events that formed the basis of Hanukkah took place. At that time, the Greeks dominated Judea, introducing paganism and destroying Jewish holy sites. Some Jews adapted to Greek customs, but a minority known as the Maccabees remained faithful to the Torah.


The part of the population that believed in Jewish traditions opposed the Greeks, liberating Jerusalem. The Maccabees decided to consecrate the desecrated temple, and to do so they had to light the place for eight days.


During the consecration of the temple, the Maccabees discovered that there was only one day's worth of oil left, but miraculously the fire burned for eight days. This allowed the righteous Jews not only to liberate their homeland from the invaders, but also to purify the sanctuary.




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Hanukkah traditions and rituals


One of the main symbols of Hanukkah is the Hanukkah candlestick, or menorah, which has eight "branches" and an additional candlestick called a "shamash." 


Each evening during the holiday, the shamash is lit, which transmits light to one branch until all eight are lit. This tradition symbolizes the flame of light that can withstand the darkness.


Another important part of the holiday includes "dreidel," a traditional Jewish game with circles that brings festive mood and fun to children and adults. 


During the game, a special toy is used that has four sides, each with different Hebrew letters. These letters stand for the phrase "Nes Gadol Haya Sham," which translates to "there was a great miracle." 


Usually, during Hanukkah, children play with the dreidel by spinning it and depending on which letter it falls on, they win or lose chocolate coins or other small treats.


Photo: Pexels


The main symbol of the holiday is the Hanukkah, a candlestick with nine candles. One candle is tall and located in the center, and four short candles are on either side. 


Believers light the center candle and then, on each day of the holiday, one of the side candles. If the Hanukkah is located at home, it is placed on the windowsill to share the light with others. In synagogues, a prayer of thanksgiving is read for eight days.


Hanukkah in Ukraine: a combination of tradition and modernity


Hanukkah is a special time when people refrain from work and express gratitude to God. During this period, people avoid mourning for the dead and do not follow a diet. 


Hanukkah celebrations always bring joy, fun, friendly visits, treats and gifts to children. The festive table these days should be filled with potato pancakes, pancakes and yeast donuts.


In 2022, an impressive ceremony of lighting the first candle on the largest Hanukkah menorah in Europe took place on Ukraine's Independence Square. This event became not only a symbol of religious freedom but also an indicator of diversity and tolerance in Ukraine.


As you know, in 2020, Ukraine celebrated Hanukkah for the first time as a public holiday. This set a new level of recognition and support for cultural diversity in the country. 

Ukrainians actively join in the celebration of Hanukkah, incorporating the traditions of the holiday into their own customs. This demonstrates the richness of the cultural heritage and openness of Ukrainian society.


Hanukkah is a holiday that not only celebrates the ancient history and traditions of the Jewish people, but also becomes a point of unity for different cultures and religions. It is a holiday that brings respect for others and the joy of uniting around light in times of darkness.


Have a happy and joyful Hanukkah!

We remind you! Earlier, we wrote that Christmas traditions in different regions of Ukraine are based on centuries of history and culture. Learn more about the origins and peculiarities of some Christmas customs of Ukrainians from different parts of the country.

Want to know more? Read the latest news and useful materials about Ukraine and the world in the News section.




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