Hanukkah Quick Facts - ZA

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2023 Date15 December 2023

Hanukkah (End)

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Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a significant event observed by Jewish communities worldwide. This eight-day ceremony consists of the lighting of a special menorah with nine candles where one candle is lit on each night of the Observance, typically accompanied by prayers and hymns. Ultimately, Hanukkah, which concludes with the Observance of Hanukkah Ends, serves as a commemoration of the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem along with the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days.

The practices of Hanukkah were introduced to South Africa by Jewish immigrants who arrived during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Observance of Hanukkah Ends highlights the resilience and survival of the Jewish people, echoing the struggles endured by many South Africans throughout history. While the holiday is steeped in religious symbolism, it also embodies values of unity, freedom, and hope that resonate with South African citizens of diverse backgrounds.

In South Africa, Jews mark the end of Hanukkah in various ways that highlight their unique cultural backdrop. Practices often incorporate traditional Jewish customs with local customs - such as lighting of the Menorah, playing traditional games, and encouraging the exchange of gifts among family members. The South African Jewish community observes Hanukkah usually during the month of December. However, the exact dates shift annually in accordance with the Hebrew calendar. This Observance serves as a time for both celebration and reflection, reinforcing a sense of community, resilience, and the enduring hope for a better future.

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Facts about Hanukkah

  • Hanukkah commemorates the cleansing and re-dedicating of the Temple in Jerusalem more than 2000 years ago. Syrian king Antiochus had ordered the Jews to abandon the Torah and worship Greek gods. In retaliation, Judas Maccabeus retook the temple in Jerusalem.
  • On the final night of Hanukkah, the last candle of the menorah is lit. The lighting of the menorah serves as a reminder to those passing by of the miracle that occurred so long ago when the remaining bit of pure oil burned for eight nights.
  • The "miracle of the oil lamp" refers to a legend where a one-day supply of oil miraculously burned for eight days.
  • South African Jews enjoy traditional Hanukkah foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts), as well as local dishes infused with Jewish customs.
  • During Hanukkah, South African Jews participate in traditional games like dreidel, a spinning top game, and exchange gifts with family members and friends.

Top things to do in South Africa for Last Day of Hanukkah

  • Enjoy traditional fried foods like latkes, sufganiyot, or apple fritters.
  • Attend a public menorah lighting ceremony, often held in areas such as Johannesburg's Nelson Mandela Square and the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.
  • Visit the Chabad centers across the country, particularly in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, where they host special Hanukkah events such as candle-lighting ceremonies, parties, and educational workshops for the community.

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