Hanukkah means "Dedication," and the anniversary of this rededication of the Temple is marked with the lighting, each night, of the Menorah. Hanukkah takes place every year on the 25 day of the Jewish Month of Kislev (Pronounced Kiss-lev). Since the Jewish calendar is different from the English calendar, the date differs every year .
History and The Menorah
Hanukkah is a joyous occasion and is often called the "Festival of Lights" in honour of the miracle, which took place in ancient Judah (now Israel) in 167 B.C. In fact, the story of Hanukkah actually began with Alexander the Great, when he conquered Syria, Egypt, and Palestine. Alexander allowed the people of these territories to observe their own religious customs, but a century later, Antiochus IV took control of the land and prohibited the practice of the Jewish religion. While some Jews obeyed, others fought back for seven years. Finally, a small group of Jewish soldiers called "Macabees," led by Judah, overthrew the Syrian soldiers. When the Jews returned home, they found their temple destroyed by the Syrians. Once they took possession of the temple, the Jews cleansed it of Syrian idols, but found only one cruse of consecrated oil for the Menorah (candelabrum), which would only last for one night. However, a miracle occurred and the lights continued to burn for eight days!
In observance of the "Festival of Lights", a menorah is arranged with eight candles - one for each night of the miracle - plus a shammus (servant candle), used to light the other candles.
Because of the role oil played in the history of Hanukkah, it is customary to eat fried food during the holiday, particularly latkes (potato pancakes).
Another beloved tradition is playing Dreidel, a square-shaped top made of clay and marked with the letters, shin, hey, gimel, and nun, which are supposed to represent the Hebrew phrase "nes gadol hayah sham" meaning, "A great miracle happened there".
Jews typically celebrate Hanukkah by gathering with family and friends and exchanging gifts. Many families give one gift to their children for every night of Hanukkah. Other families give all the gifts to their children on the first night of Hanukkah.