Eight candles lit for an eight night tradition — from lights, to games to food, Jews celebrate Hanukkah’s traditions around the world.
But why does this festival of lights last eight nights?
"You would assume Hanukkah is the Jewish Christmas, but it’s not," said Mackenzie Sherman.
Hanukkah started with a revolt. In 166 B.C.E the land of Israel — then known as Judea — came under attack. The Syrian-Greek soldiers who occupied the land outlawed Judaism and mandated the worship of Greek Gods within two years. The Syrian-Greeks destroyed the city’s holy second temple, and put in its place an altar to Zeus. The Jewish Maccabees, a Hebrew term rooted in the word for hammer, were outnumbered — yet mighty.
They were led by Judah Maccabee. They drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem and restored the second temple and relit its menorah, a 7–branch candelabra symbolizing life and knowledge — but time was not on their side.
The menorah’s branches were meant to burn night after night, but the Maccabees only had enough oil to keep it lit for one day after the Syrians destroyed their temple.
Then came a miracle — the flame stayed alive and lasted for eight days and eight nights. It gave the Maccabees time to find more oil and preserve the temple.
A tradition was born.
Nine candles on the menorah with one as the dedicated lighter to ignite a new flame each night, honoring the eight-night miracle.
Hanukkah means dedication in Hebrew and it became a holiday for that reason, and the menorah became its symbol of faith and strength. And while it’s considered a minor holiday religiously, the Jewish people have embraced its joy and light for all eight nights.