[ hah-nuh-kuh; khahAshkenazic Hebrew khah-nuh-kuh; Sephardic Hebrew khah-noo-kah ]
/ ˈhɑ nə kə; ˈxɑ‐ Ashkenazic Hebrew ˈxɑ nə kə; Sephardic Hebrew xɑ nuˈkɑ /
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a Jewish festival lasting eight days, celebrated from the 25th day of the month of Kislev to the 2nd of Tevet in commemoration of the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees following their victory over the Syrians under Antiochus IV, characterized chiefly by the lighting of the menorah on each night of the festival.


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Also Cha·nu·kah .
Also called Feast of Dedication, Feast of Lights .

Origin of Hanukkah

First recorded in 1890–95, Hanukkah is from the Hebrew word ḥănukkāh literally, “a dedicating”

Words nearby Hanukkah

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish festival that commemorates the rededication of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century b.c.e. It usually occurs in December but can also happen in late November and can extend into January.

It can also be spelled Chanukah. It is sometimes called the Feast of Dedication—the word Hanukkah is commonly interpreted as meaning “a dedication” in Hebrew.

More commonly, it’s referred to as the Festival of Lights (or Feast of Lights). That’s because Hanukkah is observed with the lighting of a multi-branched candelabrum called the menorah (or hanukiah or chanukiah). When it has nine candles, one of them is a “starter” (technically called the shammes) that’s used to light the other eight candles. One candle is lit on each subsequent evening of the celebration, until all are lit. Special prayers may be said during the lighting of each candle or at different times of each day.

The tradition of lighting the menorah during Hanukkah is done to commemorate the story of a miracle. According to the story, when the Temple was rededicated, its lamps burned miraculously for a week, even though there was not enough oil to fuel them.

The rededication of the Temple occurred after Judea was liberated from Syrian occupation by the Maccabees, a family of Jews led by Judas Maccabaeus. They defeated the Syrians under Antiochus IV around 165 b.c.e.

Common ways of celebrating Hanukkah include giving gifts to children and loved ones, having family dinners, and eating special foods like latkes. Children sometimes play games with a traditional toy called a dreidel, a kind of four-sided top.

Example: I love spending Hanukkah with my family and lighting the menorah each night!

When is Hanukkah?

The timing of Hanukkah is based on the Jewish calendar and varies from year to year. It is celebrated on the 25th day of the month of Kislev to the 2nd of Tevet. This most often corresponds to an eight-day period in December.

In 2022, Hanukkah will begin on the evening of December 18 and end on the evening of December 26.

Where does Hanukkah come from?

Various spellings of the word Hanukkah have been used in English since at least the 1600s. It comes from the Hebrew word ḥănukkāh, which is thought to mean “a dedicating” or “a dedication.”

Hanukkah is thousands of years old, but it’s not one of the holidays mentioned in the canonical Jewish scriptures (the events it commemorates occurred after the writing of the Torah). Instead, it is based on rabbinic tradition. In the context of the Jewish religion, it is not considered one of the most important Jewish holy days. However, it is now celebrated by Jews all over the world, and it is especially popular among Jews in the United States. Hanukkah is also one of the most well-known Jewish holidays among people who are not Jewish, especially due to the fact that it often falls around the Christian holiday of Christmas, making it part of the “holiday season,” especially in the U.S.

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How is Hanukkah used in real life?

Hanukkah is a time of celebration for Jews and is well-known even among people who are not Jewish.

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Hanukkah always takes place on the same eight days in December.

How to use Hanukkah in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Hanukkah


Hanukah or Chanukah

/ (ˈhɑːnəkə, -nʊˌkɑː, Hebrew xanuˈka) /

the eight-day Jewish festival of lights beginning on the 25th of Kislev and commemorating the rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabaeus in 165 bcAlso called: Feast of Dedication, Feast of Lights

Word Origin for Hanukkah

from Hebrew, literally: a dedication
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for Hanukkah

[ (khah-nuh-kuh, hah-nuh-kuh) ]

A festival in Judaism that occurs each December. Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Jews (see also Jews) in the second century b.c. over the Syrians, who had occupied their country, and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem (see also Jerusalem) (hanukkah is Hebrew for “dedication”). Observers of Hanukkah light one candle in a candleholder called a menorah each night for eight nights in memory of a legend that, when the Temple was rededicated, its lamps burned, without enough oil, miraculously for a week.

notes for Hanukkah

Hanukkah was formerly one of the less important Jewish festivals, but today it is celebrated by Jews in many parts of the world — especially the United States, where it overlaps with the celebration of Christmas.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.