After the Maccabees won the war against the Syrian-Greeks and re-dedicated the Holy Temple to Jerusalem, a tiny jug of oil, which was only supposed to last for a day, somehow managed to keep the Holy Temple lit up for eight days and eight nights. Hanukkah is when Jews celebrate their religious freedom and commemorate this miracle every year, for eight days and nights, usually at the end of November or the start of December, depending on the Hebrew calendar.
Each day, for eight days, Jews light a candle on a hanukkiah (a nine-branched candelabrum). The middle candle is called a shamash (meaning "helper" or "servant"), and is used to light the other candles. A game using a kind of spinning top called a dreidel is also played during this holiday, with each of the four sides marked with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet--nun, gimel, hey, and shin--an initialism for the phrase Nes Gadol Hayah Sham (“A great miracle happened there”).
Now to everyone’s favorite part! In celebration of this miraculous jug of oil, oily, fried foods are a staple during this holiday. Latkes (fried potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (doughnuts) are traditionally eaten during Hanukkah.
A traditional Jewish potato pancake that can be sweetened with apple-pear sauce or made savory with sour cream and chives. Absolutely delicious!
Dairy foods, such as cheese, are also eaten around Hanukkah in commemoration of Judith, a beautiful Jewish widow, who defeated Holofernes, an invading general who led a siege against the Jewish people of Bethulia. Judith seduced Holofernes, first feeding him cheese, which made him very thirsty, and then giving him wine. When he became drunk, Judith beheaded him, thereby saving Bethulia.
And there you have it! Happy Hanukkah, everyone!