This year, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins the evening of Dec. 6 and continues through the evening of Dec. 14. Although it generally falls in December, it’s not the Jewish version of Christmas.
Although, like many holidays, it’s celebrated with food, family and illumination, it has a history and meaning all its own. It marks a military victory around 166 B.C., led by Judah Maccabee, over Hellenic dominance of the Jewish people, and the miracle of a single jar of uncontaminated oil that kept the flame in the reclaimed Temple burning for eight days.
What is Chanukah? … When the royal Hasmonean family overpowered and was victorious over [the Greeks], they searched and found only a single cruse of pure oil… enough to light the menorah for a single day.
A miracle occurred, and they lit the menorah with this oil for eight days.
On the following year, they established these [eight days] as days of festivity and praise and thanksgiving to G-d.
Talmud, Shabbat 21b
And, from a 2012 op-ed in The New York Times:
The original miracle of Hanukkah was that a committed band of people led a successful uprising against a much larger force, paving the way for Jewish independence and perhaps keeping Judaism itself from disappearing. It’s an amazing story, resonant with America’s own founding, that offers powerful lessons about standing up for one’s convictions and challenging those in power.
Many believe that the rabbis in the Talmud recounted the miracle of the light alongside the military victory because they did not want to glorify war. That in itself is an important teaching, as are the holiday’s related messages of renewal, hope and turning away from darkness.
As it is the nature of humans to do, people like to sing songs about their holidays — and Hanukkah is no exception.
On Nov. 23, The Maccabeats — an a cappella group formed in 2007 at Yeshiva University in New York, which says it is not “your grandfather’s synagogue choir” — came out with “Latke Recipe,” a parody of Walk the Moon’s summertime hit song, “Shut Up and Dance.”
The group first hit it big in 2010 with “Dynamite,” a Hanukkah-themed parody of Taio Cruz’s “Candlelight,” which has garnered more than 10.7 million views.
Then on Nov. 25, Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison released the latest iteration of his famous “Chanukah Song,” updating the list of Jewish celebrities, including Drake, Idina Menzel … and Jared Fogle of Subway fame and sex-abuse infamy.