25 Facts About Hanukkah You Might Not Know

Posted by , Updated on November 19, 2022

How much do you know about Hanukkah? Do you know why the menorah has 9 candles? Or why Jewish people eat fried foods like latke? Get ready to learn about Hanukkah’s history and how it became such a widely celebrated holiday. (It wasn’t always as popular as it is today!) These are 25 Facts About Hanukkah You Might Not Know!


Hanukkah celebrates the military victory of the Maccabees, an army of Jewish rebels, when they took back the Temple from the Syrian-Greeks.

MaccabeesSource: history.com

The holiday lasts 8 days because when they re-conquered the temple, the Maccabees lit a lamp. They only had oil for one day, but it burned for eight!

lampSource: history.com

The Torah doesn't actually mention Hanukkah.

torahSource: history.com

Since there isn't any exact way to recreate the Hebrew sounds in English, there are numerous ways of spelling Hanukkah (Hannuka, Chanukah, etc).

happy hanukkahSource: huffingtonpost.com

The Jewish religion puts more emphasis on holidays like Passover and Rosh Hashanah.

JewishSource: huffingtonpost.com

Jews in the US began to put more emphasis on the holiday in the early 20th century because it occurs around the time that people of other religions, notably Christians, are also celebrating.

christmasSource: history.com

Today, Jews around the world, even in Israel, have followed suit and thus Hanukkah is much more important than it once was.

israelSource: history.com

Traditional Hanukkah food is all fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of the oil.

friedSource: history.com

During Hanukkah, kids play with dreidels which are basically small spinning tops.

dreidelsSource: huffingtonpost.com

Legend says that since the Jews weren't allowed to read the Torah, they pretended to gamble with the dreidels while studying the text.

TorahSource: huffingtonpost.com

Modern dreidels have four Hebrew letters written on them - Nun, Gimel, Ha, and Shin. It is said that they stand for "Nes Gadol Hayah Sham," meaning "A great miracle happened there."

dreidelsSource: huffingtonpost.com

Some popular foods eaten during Hanukkah include latkes (potato pancakes), kugel (noodle or potato casserole), and gelt (chocolate coins).

geltSource: history.com

Since the holiday is based on the Hebrew calendar, there is no set Gregorian day for Hanukkah.

calendarSource: history.com

In 2013, Hanukkah overlapped with Thanksgiving which led to numerous Thanksgivukkah memes. (The next time this happens will be in 2070.)

Thanksgivukkah memeSource: history.com

In the past, many Jews would give money instead of presents. Due to the influence of holidays like Christmas, however, modern Jews tend to prefer gift giving.

giftSource: history.com

Children typically receive gelt, or money, in the form of chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil.

geltSource: history.com

Hanukkah always starts on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev.

HanukkahSource: huffingtonpost.com

Hanukkah menorahs are nine-branched candelabrums lit during the eight day period of the holiday.

menorahSource: history.com

The ninth branch is called a shamash and is used to light the other branches.

shamashSource: history.com

Every day of Hanukkah an extra candle is lit, as well as all the candles that were lit on the previous days. To celebrate the whole eight days, you'll need 44 candles!

candlesSource: huffingtonpost.com

Besides different colors, there are also different scents available for menorah candles!

smellSource: history.com

Music isn't a significant part of Hanukkah (compared to Christmas), and songs like "I Have a Little Dreidel" are mainly for kids.

musicSource: history.com

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter lit the first National Menorah in the White House lawn.

white houseSource: history.com

In 1996, the US Post Office issued a 32 cent Hanukkah stamp as a joint issue with Israel.

post officeSource: history.com

As compared to other Jewish holidays, Hanukkah has almost no restriction on work other than for a few minutes after lighting the candles.

booksSource: huffingtonpost.com

Featured Image: shutterstock, 25. wikimedia commons (public domain), 24-22. pixabay (public domain), 21. EczebulunPassover-usaCC BY-SA 3.0, 20-16. pixabay (public domain), 15. Adiel loColorful dreidels2CC BY-SA 3.0, 14-13. pixabay (public domain), 12. www.someecards.com, 11. pixabay (public domain), 10. liz westChanukah geltCC BY 2.0, 9. pixabay (public domain), 8. Yoav NachtailerExhibit in heichal shlomo – Hanukkah Menorah4CC BY-SA 3.0, 7-4. wikimedia commons (public domain), 3. AgnosticPreachersKidWhite House DCCC BY-SA 3.0, 2-1. pixabay (public domain)

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