Hanukkah is associated with events that took place in Palestine in the second century BC. At the time this land was under the rule of the Seleucids. During the reign of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175 – 164/163 BC), the Hellenistic rulers sought to impose polytheism on Jews. They forbade the cultivation of Jewish customs, including circumcision. The culmination of the anti-Judaic Seleucids’ policy was desecration of the Temple of Jerusalem. The statues of Greek gods were placed there and pigs were sacrificed at the newly created altar in honour of Zeus. Such doings ended in an uprising, led by Mattathias of the Hasmonaeus lineage, and after his death – by his son, Judas Maccabeus.
The armed struggle ended in victory. Jerusalem was liberated. On the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the year 164 BC (3596 according to the Jewish tradition) the temple started to be cleansed. According to the Talmud, unadulterated and undefiled pure olive oil with the seal of the kohen gadol (high priest) was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night. The story goes that one flask was found with only enough oil to burn for one day, yet it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of kosher oil for the menorah.
It is exactly in remembrance of this miracle in the Temple of Jerusalem that on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, we begin the celebration of Hanukkah. It lasts for eight days. Every day, on a special nine-branched menorah known as the Hannukiah placed outside the house or near the window, another candle is lit. The ninth candle called the shamash (helper) is used to light up the other ones. Lighting candles is accompanied by reciting special blessings and singing Maoz cur songs.
Hanukkah is a holiday especially liked by children. They get gifts or small money then (Hanukkah-gelt). At that time the most popular game is playing dreidel, in other words the four sided spinning top, while adults are allowed to do some gambling.
Hanukkah is a very joyous festival. During this time, worrying is not recommended, neither fasting, on the contrary - it is recommended to eat fatty (fried or baked in butter or olive oil) dishes in remembrance of the miracle of the inexhaustibility of oil.