Source: The Conversation
Hanukkah may be the best known Jewish holiday in the United States. But despite its popularity in the U.S., Hanukkah is ranked one of Judaism’s minor festivals, and nowhere else does it garner such attention. The holiday is mostly a domestic celebration, although special holiday prayers also expand synagogue worship.
So how did Hanukkah attain its special place in America?
Hanukkah’s back story
The word “Hanukkah” means dedication. It commemorates the rededicating of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem in 165 B.C. when Jews – led by a band of brothers called the Maccabees – tossed out statues of Hellenic gods that had been placed there by King Antiochus IV when he conquered Judea. Antiochus aimed to plant Hellenic culture throughout his kingdom, and that included worshipping its gods.
Legend has it that during the dedication, as people prepared to light the Temple’s large oil lamps to signify the presence of God, only a tiny bit of holy oil could be found. Yet, that little bit of oil remained alight for eight days until more could be prepared. Thus, each Hanukkah evening, for eight nights, Jews light a candle, adding an additional one as the holiday progresses throughout the festival.