• Hanukkah •
Pronunciation: hah-nê-kê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, proper
Meaning: The season of Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights. It celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Greeks of Syria, who had captured Jerusalem, and the rededication of the second Temple of Jerusalem (164 BC). The Syrian Greeks had defiled the Temple and left only one bottle of holy oil. That oil, however, miraculously lasted for eight days. So, Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days by lighting one candle in the menorah (a nine-branched candelabra) each evening.
Notes: Today's Good Word is also spelled Chanukah (among other ways) but, however you spell it, you can find out more about it by clicking here.
In Play: This year Hanukkah begins before Christmas, but we can still wish our Jewish friends, "Happy Hanukkah!" as we wish our Christian friends, "Merry Christmas". Remember, Hanukkah is not a day but an 8-day season, much like English Christmastide, another holiday Good Word.
Word History: Today's very Good Word is the English rendition of Hebrew khanukkah "consecration" from hanakh "he trained, dedicated". This verb comes from the noun hekh "palate", which gave the verb the original meaning of "he rubbed the palate of a child with chewed dates", something that was done long ago during the instruction of children. The past participle, hanoch "dedicated", was also used as a name, Hanoch, which the Greeks and Romans interpreted as Enoch. (We wish all our Jewish friends the happiest of Hanukkah seasons, especially those in Israel, where we hope the Festival of the Lights will illuminate a brighter and more peaceful future.)