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Hanukkah is one of my favorite holidays, but not everyone knows what it is or why it is celebrated.

This year, Hanukkah started on the sunset of December 2nd, and will end on December 10th. It usually starts between late November and December. Sometimes it will even collide with Christmas. The date it starts on is different every year, but it will always last a total of eight days. Hanukkah means dedication in Hebrew.

Menorahs play a huge role in celebrating Hanukkah. Every night, for each of the eight days, people light a candle on their menorah. On the first night, there will be two candles lit, including the shamash which is used to light all the other candles. One additional candle will be added each night. On the last night, there will be nine candles lit.

People will also play with dreidels, a spinning top with four sides. Each side has a different letter on it: nun, gimmel, hey, shin. To play each player is given a certain amount of tokens, which most of the time, is in the form of Hanukkah gelt. To start, each player puts one of their tokens into the center of the game. This is called the pot. Then, each player will take turns spinning their dreidel. If it lands on nun (נ), then the player does nothing. If the dreidel lands on gimmel (ג) then they take everything in the pot. If it lands on hey (ה), then the player takes half of everything in the pot. Usually, if there’s an odd number of tokens the player gets the extra one. If the dreidel lands on shin (ש), then they have to put something into the pot. They usually put one or two tokens. Every time the pot is empty the players each put another token into the pot. A player is out when they have no more tokens. The winner gets to keep all of their tokens.

My favorite food to eat during Hanukkah are latkes. Latkes are basically potato pancakes. They are usually eaten with applesauce. People also eat jelly filled donuts during Hanukkah. I also really like Hanukkah gelt. Hanukkah gelt is just another way to say chocolate coins. Hanukkah gelt was first created in the 19th century, before then people used to be given real coins for Hanukkah.

There is a lot of history behind Hanukkah. Sometime around 200 BC, Judea was conquered by Antiochus III, the ruler of Syria. During this time Jews were allowed to practice their religion. This all changed when Antiochus III’s son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, gained power. He outlawed Judaism, and ordered Jews to worship Greek gods. He desecrated the Temple, one of the most sacred places for Jews, during that time. In 168 BC, he soldiers attacked Jerusalem, killing thousands of people. The Jews decided to rebel. They had a rebellion led by Jewish family called the Maccabees. They managed to drive the Syrians out of Jerusalem. Afterwards, the Jews were restoring the Temple, they had to relit its menorah, which was meant to always be burning. They only had enough oil to keep the candle burning for one day, but it miraculously it burned for eight nights.

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