Hanukkah is a Jewish festival of lamps, celebrated for eight days and nights. It commemorates the miracle of oil, which is part of the Jewish lore.
The incident is supposed to have taken place around 165 BCE, a place near Jerusalem, which was taken over by the Syrians, under Alexander the Great. Accordingly all places of worship were converted to Greek temples. During once such incident, a Jewish temple was converted to a temple of Zeus, and to hurt the Jewish sentiments, pigs were sacrificed at the temple, which was a sacrilege for the Jews.
This continued till one day, a Jewish High Priest, by the name of Mattathias, and his five sons decided to revolt against the Greeks. They did not rest till they managed to get back the control and drive out the Syrian-Greeks. As a part of the ritual cleansing of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, they decided to burn the ritual oil at the Temple for eight days. But they found that they had stock of oil for only one day. They nevertheless went ahead and started the ritual only to find that the small quantity of the oil, miraculously burnt for eight days. Since then Hanukkah is being celebrated to mark this miracle and the regaining of the Jewish temple.
During this festival, the traditional Hanukkiyah which is a candelabrum with eight candleholders in a row, with the ninth one being slightly elevated, is lit. The Hanukkiyah is lit for eight days, one on the first day, two on the second, till all eight are lit on the eighth day. As a part of the celebration, the children play the dreidel, which is a four-sided spinning top with Hebrew letters on each side. Children usually play the dreidel for chocolates, candies or just about anything.
Hanukkah is an important festival of the Jews and coming close to Christmas holidays, its importance is all the more great. However, there is no significance of the fact that Hanukkah is so close to Christmas, and it is purely coincidental. Hanukkah in Hebrew means ‘dedication’, which is a reminder to people that the festival is for the re-dedication of the Jewish temple after taking it back from the Syrian-Greeks.