Hanukkah or Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Light, is a Jewish festival that is celebrated for 8 days as a tribute to the rededication of the Jerusalem’s Second Temple, during the 2nd century B.C. According to a myth, in that temple Jews stood up in opposition to their oppressors from Syria and Greece which is known as Revolt of Maccabean. In the Hebrew language, the meaning of Hanukkah is a dedication. According to the Hebrew calendar, the celebration of Hanukkah starts on the 25th day of the month Kislev which normally falls in the month of November or December. The holiday of Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting the menorah, playing games, distributing gifts and eating traditional foods. If you want to know, what is the history behind Hanukkah then you should read this write-up up to its end?
History of Hanukkah
The history of the Hanukkah festival is based on the events that occurred when the history of Jews was in an unstable phase. The king of Syrian Seleucid, Antiochus III, got control of Judea, an Israeli land, in nearly 200 B.C. He permitted the Jews residing there to practice their religion continuously. But according to ancient sources, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the son of Antiochus III, was not kind like his father. He banned the religion of Jews and ordered them to worship the gods of Greece. Jerusalem was attacked by his soldiers in 168 B.C. They damaged the Second Temple of the holy city, sacrificed pigs and massacred thousands of people and erected a Zeus altar.
A rebellion at large scale broke out against the monarchy of Seleucid and Antiochus under the leadership of Mattathias, the priest of Jews, and the priest’s five sons. In 166 B.C., the control of rebellion was taken over by Judah Maccabee or the Hammer’, the son of Mattathias, after his death. The Syrians were driven outside Jerusalem by the Jews within two years on the basis of their tactics of guerilla warfare. After that, Judah asked his supporters to rebuild the altar in the Second Temple, after cleaning it thoroughly, and light the gold candelabrum, the menorah. Seven branches of this Menorah, which are to be burnt each night, represent creation and knowledge.
Miracle of Hanukkah
According to one of the most important texts of Judaism, Talmud, it is believed that a miracle was witnessed by Judah Maccabee and the two Jews who participated in the Second Temple’s rededication. In order to give Judah and his followers time to organize fresh supplies of fresh olive oil, the flame of the candles of the menorah flickered continuously for eight nights, even when there was enough oil to keep them burning for an entire day. The sages in Jews have publicly announced an eight-day yearly festival of Hanukkah, after getting inspired by this event.
However, another story of the eight-day festival was told in Maccabee’s first book. In this story, the festival was celebrated after the rededication of the Second Temple. But the miracle of the oil is not mentioned in this story.