The Origins of Hanukkah


Leia Zirogiannis

Towards the end of the year, Hanukkah comes around and many people all over the world celebrate it. The holiday has 8 days and traditionally each day the parents give the child a present. This holiday is fun to celebrate and even to learn about, but not many people know the origins of this holiday. 

In 200 B.C, Judea, or the Land of Israel, came under control of Antiochus III, the King of Syria, who allowed Jewish people who lived there to continue practicing their religion. Although he was very kind to Jewish people, King Antiochus’ son thought differently. His son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, allegedly outlawed Jewish religion and forced Jewish people to worship Greek Gods. In 168 B.C, under Antiochus IV, Epiphanes’ soldiers went into the city of Jerusalem and massacred thousands of people. The army violated the city’s Holy Temple by setting up a change to Zeus and sacrificing pigs, which is a violation and sin to the Jewish culture, within the sacred walls of the Temple. 

A rebellion broke out led by the Rabbi (Jewish priest) and his five sons against Antiochus IV and the Seleucid monarchy. When Matthathis passed away in 166 B.C, his son, Judah Maccabee took control. Within two years of taking control, the Jewish had successfully driven the Syrians out of Jerusalem. Judah and his followers were now going to clean the temple, rebuild the altar, and light the menorah, which is the gold candelabrum whose seven branches represent knowledge and creation.

While trying to light the menorah, Judah Maccabee and his followers witness a miracle. Everyone searched for enough oil to light the menorah for 8 days; they unfortunately only found enough to keep the menorah lit for one day instead of eight.  Even though there was only enough oil for a single day, the menorah was lit for eight full days giving the Jewish people enough time to find more oil. Now, Jewish people celebrate this wonderful miracle with an eight day holiday 

This miracle brought hope and light, and is proudly remembered and showed off by the Jewish culture.