Hanukkah: A Season of Light

For those who celebrate, the Friends wish you joy during this festival of lights.

This year, Hanukkah runs from sunset on Sunday, November 28 (Kislev 25) through sunset on Monday, December 6 (Tevet 2). This festival commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a Jewish army led by Judah Maccabee defeated the forces of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes of Syria. Antiochus was attempting to suppress the religious practices of his Jewish subjects. On Kislev 25, AM 3622 (139 B.C.E.), the Maccabees replaced the 7-branched candelabrum (menorah) in the Temple, but they only had enough oil to light it for one day. Miraculously, the menorah burned for 8 days until the Maccabees could obtain new oil. During Hanukkah, modern participants use an 8-branched menorah with a holder for an additional “attendant” (shamash). Each night, the shamash is used prayerfully to light an additional candle until all eight are lit on the last evening. As light conquers darkness, so may good triumph over evil.

Compared with the Gregorian calendar used for civil timekeeping in the United States, Hanukkah is coming early this year; in other years, the festival can start in late December. The differences are due to the nature of the two timekeeping systems. The Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar. It uses years with either 12 or 13 months of variable length to keep the year aligned with the seasons and months with the phases of the Moon. This year, Kishlev has 30 days, but has only 29 days in certain years. The Gregorian calendar is a purely solar calendar. It uses a single leap day every four years to maintain its seasonal alignment. The modern state of Israel uses both the Jewish and Gregorian calendars.

Although not directly tied to the solstice, Hanukkah brings love and laughter to the long nights at this time of year, which is transformed by season of lights.