Hanukkah, an annual eight-day Jewish holiday, will begin this year at sunset Tuesday. The festival commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews' revolt against the Greco-Syrians on the 25th of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar.
Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights, since it is observed by the lighting of candles placed in special candelabrums - a nine-branched menorah.
Judah Maccabee belonged to the Hasmonean family. His father, Mattisyahu, led the initial revolt against the Greeks but died soon, handing the reigns of the fight to his son Judah.
It is believed that when the Hasmoneans entered their temple, after reclaiming it from the Greeks in 165 B.C., they wanted to purifying the holy place by burning candles. To their horror, they could find oil enough only for a day. However, according to tradition, the little oil they had lasted for eight days; thus began the tradition of celebrating Hannukah for eight days.
Incidentally, care must be taken to ensure the branches of the menorah are not too close to one another. They must be separated by at least 2 cm, or the lights will appear as a torch, rather than distinct candles.
It is also customary to eat foods fried in oil during this time, to remember the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days. Fried foods like potato pancakes and doughnuts are traditional Hanukkah treats.
Another tradition which is part of Hanukkah is to play with a dreidel - a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side. During the persecution of the Jews by the Greeks, those who wished to continue studying the Torah had to do so in hiding. When Greek officers approached, they would quickly hide their books and pretend to be playing dreidel.