Why The Color Blue Is So Closely Associated With Hanukkah Decorations

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Even though blue presumably got incorporated into Hanukkah because of the Israeli flag, blue has a far more ancient significance in Judaism. As My Jewish Learning explains, the Jewish tallit — prayer shawl — is blue and white. In fact, the flag of Israel kind of looks like a big, brightly colored tallit with a Star of David — a seven-sided star — in the middle. And indeed, My Jewish Learning says that the original Israeli flag had darker colors, closer to tallit blue, but those colors were modified for practical purposes so they would be easier to see on the ocean.

Chabad says that the blue thread in the tallit goes back to the Torah itself — the first five books of the Bible. The Torah calls for a single thread of “tekhelet” — blue wool — to be woven into each corner of people’s shawls. The color, which was a “hallmark of nobility,” was possibly a by-product of a marine snail, but no one knows for sure. Chabad also says that blue crops up across multiple Jewish texts as a holy color.

Fast forward to 1860, per My Jewish Learning, the Austrian poet Ludwig August Frankl wrote about a blue and white Jewish flag. White represented “the radiance of the priesthood,” and blue “the splendors of the firmament,” directly inspired by the tallit. The whole flag symbolized the “religious and ritual symbolism of Jewish life guided by precepts of the Torah.” 

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