Chanukah Sameach, or Happy Hanukkah!

Student choir of the B’ Nai B’ Rith Hillel Foundation at Ohio State University performing for Hanukkah, 1958, via Ohio Memory

The eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah wraps up this Sunday, December 16th, at sundown, with the lighting of the eighth candle on the menorah.

Front page of the Ohio Jewish Chronicle from December 25th, 1986, courtesy of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society via Ohio Memory.


Hanukkah commemorates the story of the re-dedication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem around 165 BC, when a Jewish priest and his five sons led a successful revolt against the emperor Antiochus. The emperor had outlawed Judaism, erected a statue of the Greek god Zeus in the Jewish temple and ordered the halt of Jewish rituals and services. After two years of fighting, the revolutionaries, known as the Maccabees, liberated the temple and cleansed it. During this time of re-dedication, their limited amount of oil (enough for one day) miraculously burned for eight days and nights. The “Festival of Lights” tradition was established in honor of this event, along with various other traditions which recognize the victory of the Maccabees over their oppressors over 2,000 years ago.

Although the Gregorian calendar date of Hanukkah changes from year to year, it always falls on the 25th day of Kislev on the Jewish calendar, in honor of the historical date on which fighting ceased for the temple in the second century BC.


Jewish students of the B ‘Nai B’ Rith Hillel Foundation at OSU making latke (potato pancakes) for Hanukkah, 1957, via Ohio Memory.

Hanukkah has many traditions, including the eating of fried foods like latke and doughnuts, the giving of real or chocolate coins called gelt to children, the spinning top game of dreidel, and the singing of traditional hymns. The most recognizable ritual is the lighting of the menorah candles each night, generally around sundown, so that the candles burn for at least half an hour after dark. After blessings are said over the candles, some families exchange gifts for one or all eight nights.

We invite you to explore the materials in Ohio Memory, particularly the archives of the Ohio Jewish Chronicle, which records the history of Columbus’s Jewish community all the way back to 1922. Happy Hanukkah from all of us at Ohio Memory!

Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!

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