The answers to the most FAQ about Chanukah are no, yes, yes, and no.
No, Chanukah is not the Jewish Christmas. The only thing the two holidays have in common is the time of year they’re celebrated.
This year, Chanukah starts on Monday, Dec. 23, two days before Christmas.
Yes, Chanukah is the celebration of a miracle. The short version is that in 165 BC, the Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated by the Syrian-Greeks under King Antiochus Epiphanes.
When the Jewish people, led by Judah Maccabee and a rag-tag group of zealots, overcame that enemy and took the Temple back, there was enough oil in it to light the symbolic Eternal Light for one night.
A messenger was sent for more, and the one-day quantity lasted eight days, until the messenger got back.
Thus, candles are lit for the eight days of Chanukah, thanking God for the rededication of the Temple.
Yes, Chanukah is celebrated all over the world with special food, games, decorations, music and traditions.
We eat food fried in oil, such as potato latkas and donuts - lots of donuts - to commemorate the miracle of the oil.
We play a game with a top-like toy called a dreidel. It goes back to the days when Jewish people were forbidden to study the Scriptures and when caught doing so, would pretend to just be playing a harmless game.
We don’t decorate with bouncy houses, but we do have subtle decorations, probably a throwback to keeping a low profile so we could stay alive.
Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song is a staple in our family, and traditions include presents. That probably started because non-Jewish neighbor kids were getting Christmas presents, but hey, do we ever need an excuse to give presents?
No, Chanukah is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but it is in the books of First and Second Maccabees in the Apocrypha, describing events that happened between the two Testaments.
In the New Testament, however, in John 10:22-39, it explains that Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate Chanukah, sometimes called the Feast of Dedication.
Chanukah is a fun, festive, family time that the comedian Alan King described this way: “Chanukah is like all the other Jewish holidays. They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.”
Chanukah is actually considered a “minor festival,” but seriously, is a miracle ever minor?