Like many Hebrew words, there are some changes in the words when they are translated to English. One of the words that has been translated and has a lot of confusion surrounding it is the word Hanukkah. As Hanukkah is spelled in Hebrew it is written as חנֻכה or חנוכה (Ḥǎnukkâh) and it is translated to mean “to dedicate”. This is based on the belief and tradition that Hanukkah is a celebration for the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
The most correct spelling of Hanukkah can go back to the Bible in which the letters are spelled as Chet, Nun, Vav, Kaf, and Hey. As you can see this can lead to a lot of confusion with the spelling of the holiday and this is where you get so many variations. Some people emphasize the “ch” sound in Hanukkah while others will emphasize the “kah” sound. So in some cultures Hanukkah is spelled as Chanukkah, and is spoken as “cha nuuu oouuu kaa”. In America, most people spell it as Hanukkah and emphasize the “h” sound with a hard “k” sound in the middle. The reason for this spelling is because the Library of Congress has officially recognized this is as the way to spell the holiday. This makes it easier for people to keep it the same spelling and can eliminate confusion that tends to surround the holiday. To see just how many different ways there are to spell Hanukkah you should use Google Adwords to see the search engine rankings for the various keywords. Here are some of the most popular online “hits” when it comes to spelling Hanukkah:
If you really want it to remain the same, you can spell Hanukkah the official way and that is the Hebrew way. Of course not everyone will know what you are talking about so it definitely helps to understand the culture you are working with and to be sure that they understand the different spellings and why you prefer to use the one you like. Some people prefer a specific spelling because this is what they grew up with. Many “traditional” Jews will say it as “Chanukah” as this is what they were raised with in their religious teachings and by their religious leaders.
The celebration of Hanukkah is called the “festival of lights”. This is a holiday that is very symbolic and very religious, much like Christmas and Easter are to Christians. As you celebrate Hanukkah you will have 8 days of celebration in which you will light the candles in the Menorah and will say prayers in remembrance of the Maccabean Revolt. Since Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Holy temple in Jerusalem, it is common to have some spiritual lessons given as parents often teach their children about the sacredness and symbolism of Hanukkah.
Hanukkah can be at the end of November of beginning of December. It is based on the Hebrew Calendar and it doesn’t have a specific date like Christmas does and some of the other holidays with which you may be more familiar. The menorah is what holds the candles that you light as you say a prayer at sundown. The menorah has 8 different branches to hold the candles and a single branch that is taller or smaller from other others as this is the shamash or the sexton. This light is used to have light always available for use as you never want to use the other Hanukkah lights because it is forbidden.