Lots of celebration
Many people’s understanding of the Hanukkah — y’know, “the Jewish Christmas” — comes from a silly SNL sketch; ask for a definition and you’ll usually get a singsong “Hanukkah is the festival of lights / Instead of one day of presents, we have eight crazy nights!”
But what’s it really all about? In a very tiny nutshell: The holiday commemorates the rededication of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, a sacred spot reclaimed by the Maccabees after their successful revolt against hopeful colonizer King Antiochus III of Syria. The “festival of lights” ritualizes this historical religious event, with the traditional menorah and its candles representing the eight nights the Maccabees kept their limited supply of oil burning.
Officially, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the National Menorah in Washington, D.C., a tradition that began in 1979 under President Jimmy Carter (though, allegedly, it was Rondald Reagan who dubbed it the “National” Menorah).
Want more holiday treats?
Over at NPR, Morning Edition profiles several unique Hanukkah-inspired microbrews and the history behind them.
Wired presents an eight part “Geek Celebrates Hanukkah With Science” series, documenting one fun family’s special way of celebrating.
Serious Eats rounds up their favorite traditional recipes, from apps to desserts.