The Festival of Lights, another name for Hanukkah, begins annually on the 25th day of the Kislev, a Hebrew month that typically falls around November or December. It’s a way for people of the Jewish faith to come together and remember a miracle that occurred over 2,000 years ago. It’s a story of heartache and hope, of fear and prevalence. Today, traditions commemorating that miracle include lighting the nine candles of the menorah for a period of eight nights, singing traditional songs, prayer, spending time with loved ones, gift-giving, and eating certain fried foods. But the story of Hanukkah didn’t begin that way.
According to History.com, 200 B.C. marked the beginning of the rule of Antiochus III, the Seleucid king of Syria, in Judea (also known as Israel). He allowed freedom of religion for the Jews, but when his son Antiochus IV Epiphanes came into power, he outlawed Judaism and attempted to force the people to worship Greek gods. This order culminated in a bloody battle in Jerusalem in 168 B.C., when his soldiers killed thousands of people and utterly disrespected the holy Second Temple by sacrificing pigs and erecting a statue of Zeus. The rebellion movement was led by Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons, one of which took charge after his father’s death and within two years was the leader responsible for driving the Syrians from the city.
Judah Maccabee was his name, and one of his orders of business was calling for the Second Temple to be brought back to its former state. When he and his soldiers were restoring it, they only had one day’s supply of untainted olive oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning, but the light kept shining for eight nights until the men were able to replenish their supply — resulting in the famed Hanukkah miracle.
In honor of these eight crazy nights, we’ve rounded up seven ways the world celebrates Hanukkah. Read on to learn more.