Eight essential Chanukah facts

How many candles do you need? Where do dreidels come from? Why do we use so much olive oil? All the answers are here....


1 In  166 BCE, the guerrilla rebel Maccabees took back the Second Temple from Antiochus’s Seleucid Empire.

The Hellenistic empire had taken over the Jewish temple and desecrated it, sacrificing pigs to Greek gods and contaminating the oil used to light the menorah. When the Maccabees reconsecrated the temple, their one-day supply of lamp oil lasted for eight days, allowing time to repurify it.


2 Many of the Maccabees’ main fights during their three-year revolt were with other Jews who had converted to Hellenistic worship.


3 Olive oil was used to anoint everything sacred. Both King David and King Solomon were anointed with olive oil.


4 Oil’s importance in this festival led to celebrating with food cookied in oil such as latkes, doughnuts and kugel.


5 Dreidels were a subversive toy, designed when Jews were forbidden by their conquerors to study the Torah. The Hebrew characters stand for “A great miracle happened here”.


6 The holiday starts on 25 Kislev, which can range between late November and late December.


7 The original lamp had seven prongs, as specified by God to Moses in Exodus 25. One such is carved into the Arch of Titus in Rome.


8 You need a total of 44 candles to celebrate the eight days of Chanukah.

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