Although it does often fall around the same time of year, Hanukkah is not just the Jewish equivalent of Christmas. This yearly celebration (Hanukkah will begin at sundown on Thursday, December 7 and end the evening of Friday, December 15, 2023) is actually a commemoration of a religiously significant event—namely, a successful revolt led by the Maccabees (i.e., the heroes of Hanukkah) against their Syrian-Greek oppressors, and the subsequent rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The story goes that in the aftermath of the revolt, the desecrated temple had only enough oil for one ritual nightly lighting of the menorah. However, by a miracle from God, that small amount of oil was able to last for eight full days, giving the Jewish worshippers enough time to procure more.
Today, Hanukkah (also known as the Festival of Lights) is a happy occasion when families and friends gather together to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness by lighting candles for eight nights and enjoying some of the festive Hanukkah traditions described below.