Hanukkah is a Hebrew word meaning dedication. This festival of lights is held to celebrate the miracle of the oil lamps. Which happened more than 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. Hanukkah also is a celebration of the determination of a people to defend their right to worship in their own way without interference.
The story of the miracle can be found in the First and Second Books of the Maccabees of The Bible. But the Books are not part of the Hebrew Bible, thus making this the only major Jewish Holiday that has no basis in the Bible.
What was the miracle of Hanukkah? According to the account of the Maccabees, the armies of the Greek Syrian king Antiochus conquered The people of Israel. Antiochus demanded that the conquered Jews abandon their worship of their God and worship the Greek gods. Any Jew who would not worship the Greek gods would be put to death. Antiochus closed the Temple in Jerusalem, killing the chief priests. He entered the Holy of Holy's and defiled it and made it a temple for the Greek gods.
A Jew named Mattathias and his five sons refused to give up their religion and fled to the mountains when the armies of Antiochus came to kill them. Little by little other Jews came and joined Mattathias in the mountains. They began to train and soon they were an army. One of Mattathias's sons, Judah, became the leader of the Jewish army. He was a very brave and forceful leader; he soon gained the name Maccabee (The Hammer). This army fought the Greek Syrian army for many years. Judah's army finally defeated Antiochus. Judah and the army entered Jerusalem and went to the Temple. The temple was returned to the people, but before anyone could worship in it, the Temple had to be purified and rededicated.
According to Mosaic Law, to rededicate the temple, an eternal light had to be kept burning in the sanctuary for eight days and nights. After the lamp was lit, it was discovered that there was only enough oil to keep the lamp burning for one night. But the lamp burned for eight days, a sign that God had indeed returned to His place of Worship.
Hanukkah is celebrated from the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev (about the middle of December). The central item of the celebration is the Menorah. The Menorah is a nine-branched candlestick. It represents light, truth and liberty. The middle candle (Shammash) is also called the servant candle for it is with this candle, that the remaining eight candles (representing the eight days the lamp burned in the Temple) are lit. On the first night the first candle is lit and so on until on the eight nights all eight candles are a flame symbolizing the ancient miracle.</fullstory>