Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah, How Did You Come to Be?

Jeffrey Engleman, Staff Writer

    Channukah. No, Chanukah. No, Hannukkah. Wait no, maybe it’s Hanukkah. However you choose to spell it, Hanukkah has an intriguing history. A rebellion to take back control of Jerusalem. A miracle of light. An eight-day celebration.

   Hanukkah’s tale is a wild one. According to the official History Channel website, in about 200 B.C., Antiochus III, King of Syria, took control of Judea, and allowed the Jewish people who lived there to continue practicing Judaism (History.com). However, when his son Antiochus IV took control of the throne, things changed drastically for these people. He outlawed Judaism and forced them to worship the Greek gods instead (History.com).

   In 186 B.C., Antiochus IV then sent his soldiers into Jerusalem, where they murdered thousands of people, then desecrated the Second Holy Temple by putting up a statue of Zeus, and sacrificing pigs inside of the temple, which is prohibited in the Jewish religion (History.com).

   However, this reign did not last for long. The Jews, led by Mattathias (a Jewish priest), as well as his five sons, launched a guerilla-style rebellion against the Seleucid Empire, ending their reign in just two years (History.com). This was a tremendous victory for their people, as they now controlled their homeland.

   After Mattathias’  death, his son Judah took the throne, starting a movement to cleanse the desecrated temple, rebuild the altar, and light its menorah (History.com). This symbolically gave power back to the Jews, as they reclaimed their home.

   What came next was considered to be a miracle, by the record of the Talmud. Although the temple only had enough untainted olive oil to light the menorah leaves for one night, it burned for eight nights gaving them time to find more. This inspired the Jewish Sages to start an annual eight-day celebration (History.com).

   Jewish Freshman Zachary Patterson noted that his favorite part of the story is “…when the candles come in. The temple only had an oil supply that would last one night, and there was no easy way to procure more oil. The ceremony was performed anyway and miraculously the oil lasted eight days.”

   This is not the only popular account of Hanukkah. Other tellings of the tale offer different viewpoints on the holiday’s origin. Some historians have proposed the idea that during the rule of Antiochus IV, a civil war broke out amongst the Jews. One side accepted the Greek/Syrian rule and believed that the others should assimilate into the culture of their ruler. The other side believed the Jewish people needed to follow Jewish laws and traditions (History.com).

   In this account of history, the traditional Jews that believed in maintaining their religion won the war. The celebration of Hanukkah is explained by the fact that during the years of the war, the Jews were not able to celebrate Sukkot, which they made up for with Hanukkah. Sukkot is an similar to Hanakkah, except seven days. (History.com).

   Hanukkah is a time to help carry on the legacy of the miracle of light. This tale is significant to the Jewish religion as it shows how they defended themselves from oppressive rule. This miracle helped the Jews in their time of need and created a celebration eight days long.