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Sunday is the first night of Hanukkah 2021, lasting until Dec. 6

Hanukkah comes earlier than usual this year, starting at the end of November instead of in December.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Sunday night marks the start of Hanukkah 2021, earlier than when many people are used to. The holiday's start date always fluctuates, and it doesn't always start in December.

Hanukkah's dates are associated with the Hebrew calendar, instead of the Gregorian calendar used in most western nations. The Hebrew calendar year is based on the 354 days it takes for the moon to go through 12 complete cycles, according to experts.

So, Hebrew holidays usually fall in similar timeframes since the number of days per month in the calendar is close to the number of days in the Gregorian calendar. But they don't always match up.

To make sure that the holidays don't fall completely out of sync with the Gregorian calendar, the Hebrew calendar occasionally adds another month to the Jewish year, essentially creating a Jewish leap year.

The current year on the Hebrew calendar is just such a year and Adar II, the additional month, will be added in early spring. That way, Passover 2022 will fall at a more typical date — April 15.

Hanukkah will last until Dec. 6 this year. 

During each night of Hanukkah, people light one candle for each night plus an additional one called the shamash, the "helper" candle, which is lit first each night and used to light all the others. 

So on the first night of Hanukkah, the shamash is lit, along with one other candle. Over the course of the eight nights of Hanukkah, 44 candles will be used.

The menorah is lit after sunset and is traditionally displayed near a window so that everyone can see the Mitzvah, a kind of tradition. The candles are placed on the right side of the menorah sequentially each day and are lit from the left side to the right side.

The traditional Hanukkah foods include fried potato pancakes, called latkes, and jelly donuts, called sufganiyot. Latkes and sufganiyot are typically fried and are meant to commemorate the Hanukkah miracle of the oil lasting for eight nights. 

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