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Hanukkah - what is actually behind the festival of lights?

When and how Hanukkah is celebrated

While Christians celebrate Christmas, other cultures celebrate other holidays such as Hanukkah.

In Judaism, the Hanukkah festival - also known as the Festival of Lights - begins around Advent, but on no fixed date. The festival extends over a total of eight days. Excitingly, this number is not chosen at random. (For more on this, see the section on historical background).

The word "Hanukkah" is of Hebrew origin and translates as "consecration" or "dedication".

An important object needed to celebrate Hanukkah is the eight-branched candelabrum. It is used to indicate the day of the festival.

It is actually a "semi-holiday"

The Hanukkah festival is actually a so-called "semi-holiday". This means that Jews can only celebrate the festivity after their work is done.

Moreover, the day is not based on biblical commandments, but - according to devout Jews - on a historical event.

The historical background - what do Jews actually celebrate on Hanukkah?

On the Festival of Lights, the Jewish community celebrates the rescue of Israel from the rule of the Greeks in 185 BC. At that time, the Seleucids ruled over Israel and oppressed the Jewish population with constantly new commandments and laws.

The population suffered from these conditions and no longer wanted to put up with them. In the so-called "Maccabean Revolt", initiated by Judas Maccabee and his brothers, the Seleucids were finally defeated.

The recaptured temple was cleansed and rededicated. Afterwards, the rest of the sanctified oil was lit. The amount was actually only enough for one day, but in what is repeatedly quoted as a "miraculous way" the oil burned for a whole eight days. It took just as long to produce a new kosher oil.

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When and how Hanukkah is celebrated

When does Hanukkah take place?

Since the oil - according to the story - burned for eight days, the celebration lasts for eight days until today. Unlike Christmas, Hanukkah has no fixed date. This is because the Jewish calendar is different from the Gregorian calendar.

In 2020, Hanukkah falls between 11 and 18 December. This year, the first candle was lit on 10 December.

Additional information: According to the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev.

How is the festival celebrated?

During the Hanukkah celebrations, Jewish believers gather with their relatives and friends to celebrate the festival.

In the morning, observant Jews go to the synagogue to pray and listen to texts from the Torah.

In the evening, the Hanukkai (candlestick) is lit together. Every evening, a candle is added. The lighting is celebrated as a ceremonial act. The order also plays an important role. It is started on the right. Meanwhile, prayers and blessings are recited.

Many Jews place the Hanukkai on windowsills or in house entrances. In this way, they want to remember the miracle of light and at the same time testify to their faith, pride and trust in God.

Queers in the Jewish Community

As in all other religions, there are of course queers in Judaism. And as in all other religions, they fight for their rights here. Strictly religious Jews in particular see homosexuality as a sin - as do strict Christians and followers of other religions.

Nevertheless, people seem to have become more open-minded towards queers over time - also with regard to the connection between homosexuality and faith, among other things.

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For many people, it is no longer a criterion for exclusion, gay and be a believer. However, until complete equality is achieved, there is likely to be discussion in all religions - not only in Judaism.

Among other things, however, many positive examples, such as the actress Bette Midler, show that the boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred. Among other things, the Jewish artist has been campaigning for years for the rights of the LGBTQ community.


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