Nov 13, 2023 - World

Why Hanukkah's dates change every year

Data: JCal; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals
Data: JCal; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Hanukkah starts at sundown Dec. 7, with Dec. 8 as the first full day of the holiday this year.

What's happening: Hanukkah 2023 begins on a different day on the Gregorian calendar than it did last year (and will next year), but it's on the same date annually on the lunisolar Hebrew calendar.

Between the lines: Hanukkah starts on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar.

  • The Hebrew calendar — also called the Jewish calendar — is timed according to the moon, with a "leap" month added seven times (including this year) in every 19-year cycle.
  • It works out that Jewish holidays are around the same time every year — like Hanukkah always being in the winter — and there's a full moon on the 15th of the month and a new moon at the start of the month.

What they're saying: "When you look at the sky, that's what the sky has looked like whenever Jews have celebrated this," says Rabbi Sarah Krinsky of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C.

  • The eight days of Hanukkah span from the end of Kislev to the beginning of the month of Tevet, so you see the moon wane and then wax, which is "the whole experience of the holiday: a descent into darkness, a moment of sitting in the darkness, and then crawling … back into the light," Krinsky says.
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