These eight special nights are going to be here before we know it.
Every December, Jews around the world celebrate Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, to celebrate an important battle for their people.
“Hanukkah commemorates how the Maccabees, a small motley group of soldiers loyal to the faith, defeated the large, well-equipped army of the Syrian Greeks,” said Rabbi Pinchas Taylor, founder of The Ark, a Torah study and coaching program, said TODAY. “Good always triumphs over evil, and a little light dispels a lot of darkness,” he continued, offering a poignant conclusion that’s been all the more resonant in recent years.
Whether you’re familiar with the holidays or have been invited to a Hanukkah party for the first time, keep reading for everything you need to know about the Festival of Lights, including when it’s celebrated in 2022, its history rich and more. (Yes, we’ll even explain why the dates change every year, for those who are curious.)
When is Hanukkah in 2022?
Hanukkah in 2022 will begin the evening of Sunday December 18 and will end the evening of Monday December 26. Now that you know the dates well in advance, take the time to perfect your latke (potato pancakes) or beef brisket recipes.
Are the dates the same every year?
You’re right: Hanukkah dates actually change every year.
“The dates change each year from the solar calendar used by the Christian and secular world because the Jewish calendar is both a solar and a lunar calendar,” said Rabbi Douglas Sagal, BA, MA, STM, DD, of Congregation B’Nai Israel, says TODAY. The dates have the chance to “correct the gap between the two calendars”, but the Hebrew date is still on the 25th of the month of Kislev.
The Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle, which, Taylor adds, “has 354 days, as opposed to the Gregorian calendar, which is based on the solar year of 365 days.”
What is the story of Hanukkah?
We touched on the Maccabees’ victory earlier, but here’s a deeper look.
“Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel over their Syrian overlords in a battle for religious freedom that took place from around 167 BC to 160 BC,” Sagal said. “The rebellion began when Syrian rulers, led by the tyrant King Antiochus Epiphanes, severely restricted the rights of the Jewish people to freely practice their religion. Led by a priestly family named Maccabee, a relatively small group of Jews led a guerrilla war that eventually resulted in a full-fledged rebellion.
Hanukkah itself marks not only the rebellion and the restoration of religious autonomy, but a very specific event: the liberation of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev and the restoration of religious practices at the Temple. This is why Hanukkah always begins on the 25th of the month of Kislev.
Why does Hanukkah last eight days and eight nights?
The duration of Hanukkah is a miracle – literally. According to tradition, the festival lasts eight days because, as Sagal says, “the Maccabees only found enough holy oil to light the Menorah lamp for one day, but miraculously it lasted eight”.
Additionally, Taylor points out that seven often symbolizes the natural world – seven continents, seven colors of the rainbow, seven notes on the musical scale, etc. Eight, on the other hand, is the symbol of the supernatural. “The menorah lights lasted for eight days, symbolizing that there was supernatural intervention, and those eight days were eternally grounded in holiness,” Taylor said.
Today, lighting the eight candles for eight days “symbolizes the need for gradual spiritual growth.” For these reasons and a connection to a tradition, millions of Jews around the world celebrate Hanukkah each year – and look forward to lighting candles, honoring history and creating new treasured memories with their loved ones.