When is Hanukkah in 2023? When it starts, why it's celebrated and how to honor Jewish tradition.

·4 min read

Corrections & clarifications: An earlier version of this story misstated the day of week in which Hanukkah starts in 2023.

Hanukkah — the Jewish festival of lights — arrives late each year, marking a time for both celebration and reflection. Rich with history and laced with just a bit of latke grease, Hanukkah is a time for Jews to gather with family and friends and retell a fabled story of resistance.

While certain symbols of the holiday like the menorah (a decorative candelabra) and the dreidel (a four sided spinning top) may be more easily recognizable in popular culture, there is plenty more to learn about Hanukkah and why it is celebrated.

Here's everything to know about Hanukkah 2023 including when it begins, and why it lasts eight nights.

When does Hanukkah start?

Hanukkah 2023 runs from sundown on Thursday, Dec. 7 to sundown on Friday, Dec. 15.

How many days does Hanukkah last?

Eight. The festival of lights lasts for eight days, and eight nights— this year it will begin the evening of Dec. 7, and end the evening of Dec. 15.

What is Hanukkah and why is it celebrated?

"Hanukkah" is Hebrew for "dedication." Though the holiday is popularly known as the festival of lights, it is also the festival of rededication, meant to honor the victory of the Macabee soldiers over the Syrian Greek army.

In their victory the Macabees, led by Judah, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to their God. They had only enough oil to ignite the temple light for one night, and yet the light burned for eight days.

In the Jewish faith this instance is referred to as the miracle of Hannukah, and every year families honor that miracle during the eight-day holiday. A candle on the "menorah" or "hanukkiah" is lit each night to mimic the one that burned in the Holy temple so many years ago.

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What is the meaning of Hanukkah?

Hanukkah, the festival of lights, is meant to signify a miracle in the Jewish faith.

It symbolizes resilience, and the reclaiming of an important Jewish temple which had been captured. It is a holiday centered around rededication to God, and a small bit of oil burning a light for more days than anyone could imagine.

What do the 8 days of Hanukkah stand for?

Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days to mark the miracle of an oil lamp which had only enough supply to burn for one day when the Macabee army recaptured the Holy Temple in Jerusalem but astonishingly burnt for eight.

Why does Hanukkah change every year?

The dates of Hanukkah are determined by the Hebrew Calendar not the Gregorian calendar, which is what we use. This creates a shift in when the holiday is celebrated each year.

The first day of Hanukkah is always on the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar which is lunisolar — based on the movements of the sun and moon.

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Where is Hanukkah celebrated?

Hanukkah is celebrated all around the world -- anywhere you can find a Jewish community, you can find Hanukkah celebrations.

Traditions may vary based on family and sect.

What are some traditions of Hanukkah?

Aside from the lighting of the menorah, Hanukkah is also celebrated with traditional games and foods.

Jewish celebrants will often cook potato pancakes known as "latkes" throughout the holiday, serving them at times with apple sauce or sour cream. Another traditional dish is a jelly donut, or "sufganiyot."

Another honored tradition involves the game of "dreidel" in which a four-sided top is spun and whichever face it lands on, each painted with a Hebrew letter, instructs players to add coins or take them out of a poker-style pot. The "coins" in question are actually made of chocolate though, wrapped in a gold tin foil to resemble money and called "gelt."

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How many sides does a dreidel have?

A dreidel had four sides, each with a different Hebrew letter on it.

The fours faces can display:

  • Nun

  • Gimel

  • Hey or Chai

  • Shin

Each letter corresponds to a different directive -- much like poker, you put chocolate coins in the pot or take them out and whoever has the most at the end wins.

What do Jews do on Christmas?

Some Jews are in mixed-faith families and celebrate Christmas while others choose to participate in traditions of their own to mark the day.

Some Jews spend the day going to the movies or eating out at Chinese restaurants while for others it is a day that punctuates difference, Andrew Wolfson writes for the Louisville Courier Journal.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: When is Hanukkah 2023? Dates, traditions, history of Jewish holiday