There are a lot of days to celebrate in December. There are so many, in fact, you may not be aware of them all. And as for the ones that you do know, you might be surprised to discover how little you actually know about it. That’s why I’d like to take a look into the history of our December holidays as well as the origins behind our celebratory traditions. Tune in each day this week to learn about the December holidays we celebrate in the United States.
I’ll start with the first to arrive of the chief three: Hanukkah.
Starting at sunset on December 16 this year, the first night of Hanukkah begins! Eight days and nights follow to observe this traditional Hebrew holiday until nightfall on December 24. So what exactly is this celebration about? Let’s take a deeper look.
First of all, Hanukkah goes off of a lunisolar calendar which is based on the sun and the moon while the traditional Gregorian calendar only considers the sun and the time it takes the earth to move around it. While the date may jump around from year to year on the Gregorian calendar, Hanukkah consistently begins on the 25 of Kislev, a month of the Hebrew calendar.
The history of Hanukkah goes back to 165 B.C. when a Jewish rebel army known as the Maccabees defeated the Syrians and rededicated their holy temple in Jerusalem. The eight days of Hanukkah are about a seven-day miracle in which the Maccabees only had enough oil to light the temple’s eternal flame for a single day, yet the lamp kept on burning for eight!
As for Hanukkah’s main tradition, the lighting of the nine-branched candleholder is often times incorrectly referred to as a menorah. Not everyone knows that this name is the wrong name for the traditional nine-branched candelabrum. It’s actually called a Hanukkiah. A menorah, on the other hand, has only seven candleholders—like the lamp that was used in the ancient holy temple in Jerusalem.
Hanukkiahs have nine candleholders so that there’s a candle for every night of Hanukkah and then one more to light the others. If you celebrate Hanukkah, you now can educate your friends and family on the holiday you’re about to celebrate! Happy Hanukkah.
Come back tomorrow to hear about the history of Christmas.