HANUKKAH – THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
The holiday of Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration of the Jewish victory against the Seleucid Empire and the subsequent rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In 175 BCE, Antiochus, the Seleucid king who controlled Israel, outlawed practice of certain Jewish rituals including observance of the Sabbath, Torah-learning, and circumcision. These laws were issued with the intent of assimilating the Jews into Hellenistic culture, and those who wished to practice Judaism were forced to go into hiding in caves and mountains.
In order to regain their religious freedoms, the Jews, led by the Hasmonean family, fought and liberated the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. On the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev (in the year 167 BCE), they rededicated the Temple, removed all signs of the pagan rule, and lit the Menorah (the seven-pronged candelabra). Although only enough pure olive oil remained to light it for one day, the fire miraculously lasted for eight days until new oil was brought.
The main custom of Hanukkah is the lighting of the hanukiyah, eight-pronged candelabra, in remembrance of the miracle of the oil. The hanukiyah is placed by a window in order to be seen from the street, and on each night an additional candle is lit. While lighting the candles, blessings are recited thanking God for performing miracles for the Jews in the past to protect them from their adversaries.
The miracle of the oil is also commemorated through the custom of eating fries foods/
This includes "Sufganiyot" (jelly doughnuts) and "Levivot" (Potato Pancakes).
In Israel, weeks in advance of the holiday, bakeries begin to prepare these fried treats.
In addition, "Dredel" is a popular children's game on Hanukkah. A deridel is a four sided top, with Hebrew letters on each side representing an acronym for "Nes gadol haya pho" – "A great miracle happened here". The dreidel recalls the method that the Jews used to avoid being cought studying Torah: if they were learning and an enemy patrol came by,
They would take out games so they would not be seen violating Antiochus's decree.
Finally' it is traditional for parents to give gifts to their children in order to create a festive holiday atmosphere.