Hanukkah 2023: When is it and how is it celebrated?

FILE - A table setting for Hanukkah, the Jewish eight day holiday, Los Angeles, California, mid 1950s. (Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

Hanukkah is a Jewish festival that is celebrated for eight days generally during the month of December, though it sometimes starts in late November or ends in early January. 

Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah) is observed by about 5% of Americans, according to a 2019 Associated Press NORC survey. 

Some holiday traditions associated with Hanukkah in the states come in the form of blue and white or sometimes silver decorations, potato latkes, and of course, the lighting of a candelabra, also known as a menorah. 

When is Hanukkah 2023?

Hanukkah 2023 will begin on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, and end the next Friday, Dec. 15. 

As many may know, it is observed over the span of eight days to mark the miracle and victory of the Maccabees, according to Chabad.org.


FILE - Candles are lit on the Menorah for the fourth night of Hanukkah on Dec. 21, 2022 in North Haledon, New Jersey.  (Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images)

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is an 8-day celebration of the miracle that took place at the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, according to Western University. 

Around 139 B.C., Israel, which was known as Judea at the time, was ruled by Syria, according to History.com. 

Syrian soldiers descended upon Jerusalem and the city’s Holy Temple and defiled the oil used to light the temple menorah. 

After reclaiming the temple, Judah Maccabee led his followers to cleanse the Holy Temple and rebuild it. 

When Maccabee and the other Jewish people took part in the rededication of the temple, they witnessed what they believed was a miracle, according to Chabad.org. 

During the rededication, Maccabee and the Jews lit a single candle with enough untainted olive oil to last one day, but the candle continued flickering for eight nights. 

This miracle inspired the holiday traditions that are seen in America and around the world today.  

How is Hanukkah celebrated in the states? 

On each night of Hanukkah, Jewish people will typically light a candle on a menorah. These candle lightings are usually done at home, in a doorway or near a window after a brief blessing is recited. 

In addition to menorah lightings, giving to charity and social works are also part of the celebration for many, reflecting the belief that the Jewish people are called by God to help make the world better for all. 

During Hanukkah, some people play with dreidels which are tops that have four Hebrew letters etched upon them which include nun, gimmel, hay and shin, according to Chabad.org. 

It’s also customary to commemorate Hanukkah by eating oily foods such as doughnuts, potato pancakes (latkes) and eating dairy products such as cheese. 


FILE - A man bites into a jam doughnut. (Yael Bar Hillel/IDF via Getty Images)

Is Hanukkah a federal holiday? 

Hanukkah is not recognized as a federal holiday in the states but some businesses and Jewish-run organizations might be closed during the holiday. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.