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Last day of Hanukkah

The last day of Hanukkah marks the end of Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah or Festival of Lights. Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish observance that remembers the Jewish people's struggle for religious freedom.
Jewish prayer shawl, cap and nine candle menorah

Candles are lit during the Hanukkah period.

©iStockphoto.com/Anyka

What do people do?

The last day of Hanukkah is the eighth day of Hanukkah. It is known as Zose Hanukkah, Zos Hanukkah or Zot Hanukkah.  It marks the day on which the great miracle of oil occurred, according to Jewish belief. It is a particularly special day because it encapsulates all of Hanukkah.

Jewish communities worldwide celebrate Hanukkah between the 25th day of the month of Kislev to the second day of the month of Tevet in the Hebrew calendar. Many Jewish people lighting a special Hanukkah menorah, a candelabrum with holders for eight candles, one for each day of celebration, plus a ninth, the shammash or “server”, used to light the others during Hanukkah. One candle is lit on the first night, two on the second, three on the third, through to the eighth night when all are lit.

A special prayer is recited during the lighting and while the candles burn it is a time for songs and games, including the four-sided toy called dreidel. Other customs include gift-giving, especially to children, and decorating the home.

Public life

The last day of Hanukkah is not a public holiday in Israel but it is the school holiday period. This event is also not a public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Some Jewish schools in these countries and other countries have a vacation period that coincides with Hanukkah.

Background

Hanukkah commemorates the successful rebellion of the Jewish people against the Syrians in the Maccabean War of 162 BCE, but the military associations of this festival are played down. What is really being celebrated is the survival of Judaism. After the Jewish people's victory they ritually cleansed and rededicated the Temple, then re-lit the menorah or “perpetual lamp”; hence one of the other names for this celebration, the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew).

The story is told that although there was only enough consecrated oil to keep the lamp burning for one day and it would take eight days to get more, the small bottle of oil miraculously lasted for the entire eight days. It is for this reason that Hanukkah is also known as the Feast of Lights.

Symbols

The eight-branched Hanukkah menorah, or candle holder, is an important element that symbolizes the tradition of Hanukkah. It relates well with why the holiday is called “the festival of lights”. The menorah is lit from the left side to the right and people say blessings when the menorah is lit. There are many different styles of the menorah – in many cases the ninth holder, known as the shammash (helper candle), is in the middle or to the left side.

The dreidel is a popular toy symbolizing the Hanukkah period. It is a spinning top with a different Hebrew letter inscribed in each of its four sides – the four letters form an acronym meaning “a great miracle happened here”. Some popular songs associated with Hanukkah in English-speaking countries include “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” and “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah”. Some songs in Israel include "Hanukkiah Li Yesh" ("I Have a Hanukkah Menora"), "Kad Katan" ("A Small Jug"), and "S'vivon Sov Sov Sov" ("Dreidel, Spin and Spin").

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