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The holiday season is upon us and we are quickly approaching the first day of Hanukkah/Chanukah, to be celebrated by Jewish people around the world. The beloved and joyous holiday of  Hanukkah/Chanukah, or Festival of Rededication, begins the evening of Thursday, December 10th this year.  The eight-day celebration of the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem is also referred to as the “Festival of Lights.”  Below are answers to common questions about this sacred Jewish holiday that ends the evening of December 18, 2020. Think of it as your quick guide to Hanukkah/Chanukah.

Tell us about Hanukkah? Hanukkah/Chanukah (which in Hebrew translates to “dedication”)  is an eight-day celebration of the victory of a small band of Jewish freedom fighters called the Maccabees who defeated Antiochus’ mighty army, and the phenomena that happened within the temple. The freedom fighters were surrounded and had only enough oil to light the temple for one day. Somehow, the supply of oil miraculously lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared. Since then, these eight days have been designated as festival days of thanksgiving in which it is forbidden for observers to fast.

When does Hanukkah occur?  Hanukkah starts on the Hebrew calendar date of 25 Kislev. This year, Hanukkah/Chanukah begins at sundown on Thursday, December 10, and lasts until Friday, December 18, 2020.

What are some Hanukkah customs? On each night of this “festival of lights,” the triumph of light over darkness is symbolized by lighting an eight-branched candelabrum called a menorah accompanied by a special prayer. Learn more about how to light the menorah by clicking on this link. Gifts are often exchanged on these nights, along with playing a dreidel. A dreidel is a four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side that spells an acronym for “a great miracle happened there.” Partaking in special foods including potato pancakes called latkes and Israeli jelly donuts called sufganiyot is customary.

Is it Hanukkah or ChanukahMany people are familiar with the holiday being referred to as Hanukkah. Some people recognize it as Chanukah. There are several variations of the spelling. The Hebrew word is pronounced with a guttural, “kh” sound, kha-nu-kah, not tcha-new-kah.

If you are new to celebrating this Jewish holiday and are invited to celebrate with Jewish friends, wish them a Happy Hanukkah by greeting them with “Hanukkah Sameach” (Happy Hanukkah), or “Chag Sameach” (Happy Holiday). Do you celebrate Hanukkah or Chanukah? In what ways do you make the season special? Share your stories with us. Do you still have more questions? Let us know and we will be happy to answer them for you.

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a diversity and inclusion consultant, cross-cultural trainer, modern manners and etiquette expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, won a coveted Kirkus Star, and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

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