Hanukkah: (חֲנֻכָּה) is an eight-day Jewish Festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Holy Temple (Beis HaMikdash) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights, starting on the 25th of Keslev, this year it is December 1st on the Gregorian calendar. The name is derived from the Hebrew verb “חנן”, meaning “to dedicate”. On Hanukkah, the 25th of Kislev, the Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple.

The miracle of Hanukkah, is do to the fact that when the Greek soldiers entered the Temple and destroyed it, they had destroyed all the olive oil to light the lamps (menorah). The menorah is described in the Bible (Torah) as the seven-branched candelabrum made of gold and used in the portable sanctuary set up by Moses in the wilderness and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. Fresh olive oil of the purest quality was burned daily to light its lamps. There was only one small bottle left in the Temple and it was to only last one evening. It would take the Kohen Gadol (High Priests) eight days to make more oil for the lamps. To everyones surprise, the one bottle of oil lasted eight nights, burning the lamps until the new oil was made.

The ancient Jewish Historian Flavius Josephus narrates in his book “Jewish Antiquities XII”, how the victorious Judas Maccabeus ordered lavish yearly eight-day festivities after rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem. “Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the Temple for eight days and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored G-d, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their Temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival.”
 
A few of the customs that go along with Hanukkah are: lighting the Hanokiah (the Hanukkah menorah), an extra prayer added to the blessing after meals (Birkat Hamazon), many families exchanges gifts each night. Some other traditions are to sing songs like Ma’oz Tzur, S’vivon Sov Sov Sov, and other Hanukkah songs. A number of families play the Dreidel game. There is also the custom of eating fried or baked in oil food.  Again signifying the miracle of the oil lasting more than one evening. Several of the more traditional Hanukkah foods are: laktes (potato pancakes) served with apple sauce and sour cream, Sufganiyot (jelly filled donuts), bimuelos (fritters).
 
 
The candle blessing is said each night and the Shehecheyanu is said only for the first night.
 
The candle Blessing:  Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, Asher kidishanu b’mitzvotav, Vitzivanu, L’ hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.
 
The second Blessing:  Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, Sheh’ asah nisim la’avoteinu, Bayamin, haheim, Baz’man, ha-zeh.
 
The Shehecheyanu:  Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, shehecheyanu, v’ki-y’manu, v’higiyanu, lazeman hazeh.