Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Celebrating the Festival of Lights

  • Print

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah arrives early this year. In fact, the Festival of Lights has not fallen this early in the year since 1899. And it won't be this early again until 2089.

Jewish holidays follow a lunar calendar. This calendar is adjusted slightly, with a leap year thrown in seven times every 19 years, in order to ensure that the major holidays always occur in their appointed season.

Related Items

Hanukkah is not one of these aforementioned major Jewish holidays. In fact, there is no mention of Hanukkah in the Torah.

"Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday on the Jewish calendar," explains Jewish educator Joanne Seiff. "But all Jewish holidays have importance and offer chances to learn for those who observe them."

Seiff is a member of the New Shul, a two-year-old Winnipeg congregation dedicated to offering a hands-on, do-it-yourself, egalitarian Jewish experience. In anticipation of Hanukkah's early arrival this year, Seiff has been developing a one-day adult education course that explores how to make the holiday more meaningful. It is one of several informal Jewish courses she has developed over the years.

Hanukkah always begins on the eve of the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. This date usually falls in mid to late December. This year, however, the date corresponds to the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 27 on the Gregorian, or Western, calendar.

The unusual timing of Hanukkah has garnered considerable attention in the United States, where, for the first time ever, it falls on the same day as Thanksgiving. This anomaly has given rise to some new trends and rituals, including the invention of a menurkey, a Hanukkah menorah, or candelabrum, shaped like a turkey.

In Canada, the celebration of Hanukkah remains unchanged, although its early appearance ensures, appropriately, that it is less likely to be confused, compared or associated with Christmas.

According to the Book of Maccabees, Hanukkah commemorates the successful Jewish revolt over the Syrian-Greek Emperor Antiochus Epiphanes IV in the second century BCE. Antiochus had outlawed Jewish religious practice, forced Hellenism upon the Jewish people, and taken over and desecrated their holy temple in Jerusalem.

Led by the priestly Hasmonean family, the Jewish people rose up against Antiochus to demand their right to practise their religion, the only monotheistic religion at the time. When they finally liberated the holy temple, they found only enough oil to keep the temple's eternal light lit for one day. Miraculously, it remained lit for eight days.

That is why Jews worldwide celebrate Hanukkah by lighting candles for eight consecutive days. These candles are placed in a special nine-branch Hanukkah menorah. The ninth candle is used to light all the other candles.

In addition to lighting candles that recall the ancient miracle, Jewish people today typically celebrate the holiday with family and community parties, the consumption of festive foods cooked in oil, the singing of traditional songs and the giving of gifts and giving of charity.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2013 0

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Winnipeg police address homicides targeting homeless community

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Korea Veterans Association stained glass window at Deer Lodge Centre. Dedication with Minister of Veterans Affairs Dr. Rey Pagtakhan. March 12, 2003.
  • A group of Horese pose for the camera in the early evening light at Southcreek Stables in Stl Norbert Wednessday. Sept  14, 2011 (RUTH BONNEVILLE) / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google