Hanukkah Timeline

  • 538 BCE

    538 B.C.

    After the first Temple was destroyed by Babylonians, construction begins on a second sacred Jewish Temple (Beit HaMikdash)
  • 200 BCE

    200 B.C.

    Judea (the land of Israel) is captured by the King of Syria, Antiochus III. Despite the Syrian ways of life being different than the Jewish ways, he allows the Jews to keep practicing their own religion and he treats them fairly.
  • 190 BCE

    190 B.C.

    190 B.C.
    Judah Maccabee is born in Israel
  • 187 BCE

    187 B.C.

    Antiochus III dies, and his son Antiochus IV Epiphanes becomes king. He is not as accepting as his father was, and he outlaws the Jewish religion entirely and forces them to worship Greek Gods.
  • 168 BCE

    168 B.C.

    168 B.C.
    King Antiochus IV Epiphanes orders his army to attack Jerusalem. Thousands of Jewish people are slaughtered, and the Jewish Holy Temple (Beit HaMikdash) is converted to a Greek temple. A statue of Zeus is put up and pigs are sacrificed. This is a disgrace and a great sin against the temple, which was the most sacred place for Jewish people. Seeing their temple in this state is heartbreaking.
  • 167 BCE

    167 B.C.

    The Jewish Rabi Mattathias and his five sons lead a rebellion against King Anitochus and the Syrians. When Mattathias dies, his son Judah Maccabee takes his place in leading the fight to drive the Syrians out of Israel.
  • 164 BCE

    164 B.C.

    Judah Maccabee and his followers successfully drive the Syrians out of Israel and reclaim the Holy Temple.
  • 164 BCE

    164 B.C.

    164 B.C.
    Judah Maccabee orders his followers to cleanse the Temple and make it sacred again. They light a Menorah (a sacred candelabrum with 7 branches). Even though there is only enough olive oil to keep the candles burning for a single night, the flames miraculously burn on for eight days; long enough for them to find more oil.
  • 163 BCE

    163 B.C.

    In the 25th month of the Jewish Kislev (calendar) eight days are spent celebrating the return of the Temple. This is the first Hanukkah, or "Festival of Lights", as it was called then.
  • 100

    100 A.D.

    Almost 250 years after the repossession of the Temple, Jewish historian Flavius Josephus writes about the origins of the celebration for the epic temple dedication. He calls this eight day celebration the "Festival of Lights".
  • 200

    200 A.D.

    Up until this point, Hanukkah was called the "Festival of Lights", but around 200 A.D. people began to call the celebration "Hanukkah", which means dedication.
  • 450

    450 A.D.

    600 years after Judah Maccabee and his followers lead a revolt and took back the Temple, the Talmund was completed. The Talmund is the collection of Jewish civil and ceremonial law, tradition, and legend. The epic story of the candles that burned for eight days is mentioned, and the Rabbi's add that on Hanukkah, fasting and grieving is not allowed.
  • 1800s

    In the late 1800s, the Zionist movement began. The goal of Zionism was to re-establish and protect the Holy Lands. It was a national and political movement of Jewish people who wanted to return and rule over their "homeland" of Israel. This crusade was largely inspired by the story of Hanukkah. Judah Maccabee and his followers fought to return to their homeland and restore Jewish sovereignty over Israel, which was essentially the same thing the Zionists were trying to accomplish.
  • 1933-1945

    From January 1933 to May 1945,Jewish people in parts of Europe were victims of the Holocaust. They were forced into concentration camps, stripped of their culture and identity, and then beaten, starved, and subjected to horrible torture before they were killed. The culture of these victims were erased while they were captive, and thus the celebration of Hanukkah in Europe faded for years.Even those who were free to practice the celebration may have been afraid to because of violent antisemitism.
  • 1945-present

    In May of 1945, the Holocaust was ended and the survivors were finally free. However, the suffering and pain they felt would last for centuries. The Holocaust left deep scars on the Jewish community, even within families who were not directly impacted. After this tragedy, Hanukkah began to develop a deeper meaning. The celebrations serve as a sense of identity, pride, religious freedom, and cultural expression, but also a sense of loss. Today, Hanukkah is both a time of celebration and mourning.