Hanukkah (Hebrew, dedication), also called the festival of lights, falls on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislev.

Hanukkah is not a religious holiday stemming from any Biblical injunction, but an historical one, connected with the armed uprising under the leadership of Judah Maccabee, son of Matitiyahu the Hasmonean. The uprising was against the Seleucids, who during their occupation of Palestine forced Hellenistic polytheism onto the Jews and defiled the Temple. The uprising ended in 165 BC in victory for Judah Maccabee, resulting in the conquest of Jerusalem and the reconsecration of the Temple.

According to the story upon which this holiday is based, the Hasmoneans only found one ampule with pure oil that could be used to like the temple's candles was found in the ruins of the Temple with the undisturbed priest's seal. Such a tiny amount would be enough just to light the menorah for one day, and at least eight were needed in order to prepare pure, ritually clean oil. Despite the fact that there was so little oil, the menorah burned without interruption for eight entire days.

The Jews do not celebrate the military victory of the Hasmoneans, the expulsion of the Syrians from Jerusalem, or the return of the temple cult, but rather it is God's miracle that is honored: the fact that the small contained of oil lit the Temple until new oil could be pressed.
In memory of this miracle, people burn candles in eight-armed chanukiyas-candle-holders that are only used for the celebration of this period. Each day of the festival of lights, when the sun sets, another candle is lit: the first day just one, the second day another, etc., reciting the special blessings for this holiday and singing Maoz tsur (Hebrew, Rock of Ages), a thirteenth-century hymn that speaks of how God tests the faithful in every century through suffering, nevertheless saving them from persecution by their enemies.

The Hanukkah lamps are hung in the entryways that come in from the street, or are placed in the windows, so that their light "announced the miracle to passersby". It is important that the light of the chanukiya serves no practical purpose�it cannot light the home, so one must not do any work by its light, even read or study.

Foods traditional for Hanukkah are fried in oil�pancakes, doughnuts and crepes. Children get money from adults (chanuka gelt) so they can play dreidel with it (a four-sided toy spun like a top), on whose sides the following letters are written: nun, gimel, he and shin, which stands for the Hebrew sentence "a great miracle happened there" (nes gadol haya sham). Depending what side the dreidel lands on, the player either takes the entire pool of money, half of it, nothing or adds a double amount to the "bank". Despite admonitions from rabbis, adults also give in to gambling, playing cards for money in a game that is similar to the Polish card game "Oczko", but which only goes up to 18 points.
Chanukiya, the candle-holder lit during the festival of lights, is either an eight-armed menorah with an additional, higher arm known as a shames, or a specially decorated lamp comprised of eight smaller individual lamps. In Ashkenazic culture, it is typical for the chanukiya to have a back wall, usually embroidered, richly decorated with traditional designs, including lions, deer, plants, bunches of grapes, stylized menorahs, birds, abstract patterns and grotesques. The shames is always an element of each chanukiya�that is to say an extra lamp or place for a candle, from which the other lights in the lamp are lit. The shames must be positioned so that it cannot be mistaken for the other holiday candles�usually this means it is placed on the side or above the others, on a separate arm. The Hanukkah lamps have a handle that allow them to be hung in the doorway, or a stand that allows them to be placed safely in the window.

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