, , , ,

Many Jewish communities in the United States observe the first day of Chanukah, which marks the start of Chanukah, also known as Hanukkah or Festival of Lights. Chanukah is an eight-day Jewish observance that remembers the Jewish people’s struggle for religious freedom.

Lighting candles, one for each day, is a common tradition observed during Chanukah. ©iStockphoto.com/Anyka

Lighting candles, one for each day, is a common tradition observed during Chanukah. ©iStockphoto.com/Anyka

What do people do?

Jewish communities in the United States celebrate the first day of Chanukah on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the Jewish calendar. The Chanukah period lasts for eight days and is celebrated from the 25th day of Kislev to the second day of Tevet. The first night of Chanukah (or Hanukkah) starts with special blessings at sunset the day before the 25th of Kislev. Many Jewish people light the hanukiah (or chanukkiyah), which is a type of candelabrum.

Many Americans of Jewish faith also eat food fried in olive oil, such as potato cakes, and different fried breads. Chanukah dishes include sufganiot (Hanukkah donuts), potato latkes (pancakes), mandelbrot (this can be sliced like a hard bread), and rugelach (pastry that with different fillings). The first day of Chanukah is the start of a celebratory period in which a four-sided toy called dreidel is used for games. The first night of Chanukah is also a night when people sing traditional songs to celebrate Chanukah. Gift-giving is also popular at this time of the year.

Public life

The first day of Chanukah is not a federal public holiday in the United States. Some Jewish schools have their school vacation fall around the same time of Chanukah.


Chanukah commemorates the Jewish people’s successful rebellion against the Syrians in the Maccabean War in 162 BCE. A ritual cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple occurred after the Jewish people’s victory. It is believed that there was only enough consecrated oil to keep the lamp burning for one day but the small bottle of oil miraculously lasted for eight days. Chanukah, also known as Hanukkah, is referred as the Feast of Lights or Festival of Lights for this reason.

Moreover, the survival of Judaism over the many years is also celebrated during this period. The last day of Chanukah, which marks the end of Chanukah, falls on the eighth day of this period.


The dreidel is a toy that is popular during the Chanukah celebrations. It is a spinning top with a different Hebrew letter inscribed in each of its four sides – the four letters form an acronym meaning “a great miracle happened here”. Thehanukiah (or chanukkiyah) is a type of candelabrum that holds eight candles to commemorate the eight days that the oil burned and a ninth candle that sits apart, known as the shamash, or servant candle that lights the others. One candle is lit on the first night, another on the second, and so forth until all candles are lit on the last night.

About First Day of Chanukah in other countries

Read more about First Day of Chanukah.


This post is from http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/chanukah