Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, will begin at sundown Thursday, and end Dec. 18 evening. The eight-day holiday celebrates the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem.

The rededication came following a massacre ordered by the Greek-Syrian King Antiochus IV that initially pushed Jews out of the city. The word "Hanukkah" means dedication in Hebrew and celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. Hanukkah begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually occurs in November or December. 

On the first day of Hanukkah, the first candle in the eight-branched candelabra or menorah, is lit. A candle is added each night as part of lo moridim ba-kodesh, which means one does not decrease in holiness. Each lit candle represents the miracle of oil, according to the legend found in the Talmud, My Jewish Learning reported.

How to celebrate

During Hanukkah, Jews place an even line of straight candles on the menorah. The length of the ninth candle, which is placed in the middle and is known as Shamash, is kept either higher or lower than the others. Hanukkah lights can be either candle flames or oil-fueled. During the celebrations, children are usually given Hanukkah gelt, or money.

Celebrate the days with Hanukkah songs that were composed hundreds of years ago, such as "Ma’Oz Tzur." Modern classics in English and Hebrew, include "I Have a Little Dreidel," "Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah" and "Sivivon, sov, sov, sov" (a sivivon is a dreidel or top).

The two most iconic Hanukkah foods are fried in oil — latkes, or potato pancakes, and sufganiyot, or doughnuts.


"Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light."

"Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe, Who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time."

Hanukkah Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal lights a menorah on the sixth day of Hanukkah at the Orthodox synagogue at the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Education Center in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 6, 2010. Photo: Getty bImages/ Sean Gallup