Hanukkah; a historical and personal documentary

Julia Knowlton, Spring 2016

This is a video on the Jewish Holiday, Hanukkah. It is a documentary, which outlines a history of the holiday as well as discusses the holidays traditions and significant meaning. The video also includes interviews of FSU students whom are Jewish and Non-Jewish. The students are asked questions about their own religion and their knowledge of Hanukkah.

The video's purpose is to show how students do not know the real history and significance of the holiday, and at the same time outline the history to teach the video's viewers.

The video’s objective is to teach viewers about the Holiday and that either the world is informed and knowledgeable or that the students need to be more informed of the holiday. If that is the case there will be a call to action to teach students and the world more about the holiday.



Intro Information: (Source 2)

  • Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish celebration that commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
  •  Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew.
  • It begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December.
  • It is often called the Festival of Lights and is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts.


Main Story: (Source 2)

  • The story of Hanukkah is not in the Hebrew Bible, but in the book of Maccabees.
  • Took place around 200 B.C in Judea.
  • Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the son Antiochus III who ruled the land of Isreal, outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods.
  • In 168 B.C., his soldiers descended upon Jerusalem, massacring thousands of people and desecrating the city’s holy Second Temple.
  • As a result, a large-scale rebellion broke out against Antiochus and the Seleucid monarchy.
  • The rebellion was led by the Jewish priest, Mattathias, and his five sons. When Matthathias died in 166 B.C., his son Judah, known as Judah Maccabee took over the rebellion.
  • After two years the Jews had successfully driven the Syrians out of Jerusalem, relying largely on guerilla warfare tactics.
  • Judah then called on his followers to cleanse the Second Temple, rebuild its altar and light its menorah.
  • The wondrous event of how the oil kept the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames continued flickering for eight nights, leaving them time to find a fresh supply, inspired the Jewish sages to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival.

Other Stories:(Source 2)

1. Some modern historians offer a radically different interpretation of the Hanukkah tale:

  • In their view, Jerusalem under Antiochus IV had erupted into civil war between two camps of Jews: those who had adopted Greek and Syrian customs; and those who were determined to re-impose Jewish laws and traditions.
  • The traditionalists won out in the end, with the Hasmonean dynasty—led by Judah Maccabee’s brother and his descendants, who fought for control of the Land of Israel from the Seleucids and maintaining an independent Jewish kingdom for more than a century.

2. Jewish scholars also offer a different explanation for the holiday:

  • They have also suggested that the first Hanukkah may have been a belated celebration of Sukkot, “which is an eight day holiday that commemorates the Israelites wanderings in the wilderness” (102). (Source 1)
  • The Jews had not had the chance to observe Sukkot during the Maccabean Revolt.

History Of The Menorah: (Source 3)

  • Menorah is a Hebrew word meaning “candelabrum” and refers to the nine-branched ceremonial lamp in which the Hanukkah candles are placed and blessed each night of the holiday. 
  • The nine branches include eight branches, one for each day of the holiday, and one branch for the shamash (servant) candle that is used to light the other candles.
  • Over time, candles have been substituted for oil.

Popular Hanukkah Traditions: 

  • Lighting of the menorah: (Source 4)
    • The candles can be lit anytime after dark, but no later than midnight.
    • Candles must stay burning for a minimum of a half hour after dark.
    • On the first night one candle is placed on the far right. The shamus candle is lit and three blessings are recited.
      • l'hadlik neir (a general prayer over candles).
      • she-asah nisim (a prayer thanking God for performing miracles for our ancestors at this time).
      • she-hekhianu (a general prayer thanking G-d for allowing us to reach this time of year).
    • After reciting the blessings, the first candle is then lit using the shammus candle, and the shammus candle is placed in its holder.
    • Each night, another candle is added from right to left. On the eighth night, all nine candles are lit.
    • On nights after the first, only the first two blessings are recited; the third blessing, she-hekhianu is only recited on the first night of holidays.
  • Eating of fried food: (Source 3)
    • Eating fried food is a tradition because of the significance oil has to the holiday.
    • Such as:
      • Latkes (potato cakes)
      • Sufganiyot (Jelly donuts)
  • Playing of the dreidel: (Source 3)
    • A dreidel is a toy used in a Hanukkah game.
    • Playing of the dreidel was adapted from an old German gambling game. Hanukkah was one of the few times of the year when rabbis permitted games of chance.
    • The four sides of the top bear four Hebrew letters: nun, gimmel, hey, and shin. The meaning of each side:
      • nun: take nothing
      • gimmel: take everything
      • hey: take half
      • shin: put one in
    • Players begin by putting into a central pot a certain number of coins, chocolate money, nuts, buttons or other small objects. Each player in turn spins the dreidel. Whichever side it lays on tells them what to do; the game ends when one person has everything.
  • Gift Giving: (Source 4)
    • In the 19th century the Jewish custom shifted in imitation of Christmas, as the Christian holiday’s consumerism grew. (Source 5)
    • Gift-giving is not a traditional part of the holiday, but has been added in places where Jews have a lot of contact with Christians.
    • The only traditional gift of the holiday is "gelt," small amounts of money.

Work cited

Oxtoby, Willard G., Roy C. Amore, Amir Hussain, and Alan F. Segal, eds. A Concise Introduction to World Religions. Third ed. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford UP, 2015. Print.

History.com Staff. "Hanukkah." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 01 Jan. 2009. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

Syme, Daniel B. "Hanukkah: Customs and Rituals | ReformJudaism.org." Reform Judaism. The Jewish Home, n.d. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.

Rich, Tracey R. "Hanukkah." Jewfag. N.p., 2011. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.

Rosenstock, Natasha. "Hanukkah Gifts." My Jewish Learning. N.p., 2011. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.


"The Story Of Hanukkah From Time For Kids." NIE Rocks. N.p., 15 Dec. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.  (The story of Hanukkah)

"Site Navigation." Warfare History Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. (Revolt)

"Happy Hanukkah from LI." Leadership Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. (Menorah)

"How to Play Dreidel." Taste of Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. (dreidel/menorah)

"The Four Best Hanukkah Food Traditions." Oh Nuts Blog. N.p., 19 Nov. 2009. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. (Food and gelt)


“Maoz Tzur” (Rock Of Ages) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgFyCPs2XmE

“Mi Y'maleil” (Who Can Retell) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSOpN-qthuI

 “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICh2J7fxzM0


“The Dreidel Song: Hanukkah Rap” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YctO_-71CTk

 “Chanuka, Oh Chanuka!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxH0xF84h_0

 “Hanukkah- In Those Days, at This Time.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iW138NkFoI8

 “Oh Chanukah Oh Chanukah”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uil5PSmfgcY