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Festival of the Month: Hanukkah

As well as Christmas being a significant celebration for Christians this month, December is also special for people of the Jewish faith, who celebrate Hanukkah every year around this time.

Hanukkah (or 'Chanukah' in Hebrew which means 'dedication') is the Jewish wintertime 'festival of lights'. It is celebrated every November or December, for eight days and nights. This year, Hanukkah began on the evening of Sunday 28th November, and is currently being celebrated by Jewish people all over the world.

Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Jewish Maccabee army over the Seleucid army in Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago. The Seleucid armies wanted to stop the Jews from practising their faith and beliefs, and so the two armies went to war, with the Maccabees defeating them. To celebrate, the Maccabees prayed and lit the temple's menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), which miraculously burned for 8 days straight on a small amount of oil. Hence, Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah for 8 days and nights. During this time, Jewish people recite special blessings from the Torah (the Jewish holy book), sing traditional songs, exchange gifts with friends and family, eat delicious foods such as latke (a potato pancake) which is usually garnished with applesauce or sour cream, and the jelly-filled sufganya (a doughnut). Games are also played with a four-sided spinning top called a dreidel. All of which culminates in the lighting of the menorah candle, which represents strength and perseverance, and light over darkness.

The children at Whitehall have all been learning about this festival this week, and participating in different activities to understand more about it. We would like to wish you all a happy Hanukkah, and invite you to share your experiences with us, if you so wish.