Hanukkah, the Jewish "Celebration of Lights," begins today at sundown and runs through Dec. 28. Many Jewish families will light a menorah after sunset each night, except for Friday night when the candles are lit before sunset.
Why the celebration of lights? Hanukkah is the re-creation of the dedication of the Temple of the Maccabees around 156 B.C.E. After it was desecrated, a small group of Jews reclaimed their temple. They were thrilled to discover their menorah, with an eternal flame, was not destroyed; however, it only contained one night's worth of olive oil. It would take a journey of eight days and nights to obtain a new supply of olive oil.
Miraculously, the single day's supply of olive oil lasted eight days and nights and the menorah burned bright until the new olive oil arrived. The celebration of lights is now one of the most well-known Jewish holidays.
Along with lighting the menorah, other Hanukkah customs include: eating foods prepared in oils, playing games of dreidel and celebrating the miracle of light with family.
Other facts to ponder:
Why are there nine candles? The middle candle, the smamash, is the candle that is lit first and is used to light each candle from right to left.
Hanukkah dates are determined by the Hebrew calendar and is held on the 25th day of Kislev, the ninth month. Hanukkah's date falls on a day between Nov. 28 to Dec. 26 on our Gregorian calendar.