Hanukah is known as the festival of light and dates back to the time of the second temple, when the Seleucid Empire was at its strongest with King Antiochus on the thrown. Throughout his reign the King made laws which abolished the traditions of the Jewish people and prevented them from practicing any type of Judaism. This caused great distress to the Jewish people and the King enjoyed their suffering. Antiochus then robbed and ransacked the second temple belonging to the Jews in Jerusalem. The King’s army took all the temples belongings including; gold, silver and more. The army erected Greek idols and placed slaughtered pigs all over the temple. This was a huge insult to the Jewish people and they could not take any more from the King so they created an army known as the Maccabees. The leader was known as Judah of the Maccabees, who helped reclaim the temple and bring back the Jewish religion. When the army ruined the temple, they destroyed all that was inside including the ‘Ner Tamid’ which was the everlasting light which represents the Jewish faith. They searched high and low to find oil to re-light the everlasting light but among the damage there was only a small drop of oil in the bottom of a broken jug. They used the oil, thinking that it would only last for one day and the miracle of Hanukah is that the oil burned for eight days.
This piece of history is quite significant to the Jewish tradition of Hanukah. Towards the end of December usually around Christmas time, Jews come together as families to celebrate this miracle of the oil burning for eight days instead of one. They light Hanukiahs, Jewish candelabras, which represent the oil burning for eight days. Nowadays, the tradition has been modified slightly due to the invention of the candle. There are some Hanukiahs which are available that have little pots of oil in place of the candle holders. These can be used to reenact the miracle of the oil burning for eight days. Not many people can get these so they use candles instead. Families congregate around the Hanukiah and sing blessings and songs. It is also a great time for children as they receive one gift for everyday of Hanukah. This has no historical value however, Hanukah does fall over Christmas so presents are given so Jewish children do not feel left out during this holiday period. They can receive either some Hanukah Gelt which is money or chocolate money. Some Jewish families place the Hanukiah in their windows at night to show people that they are Jewish and proud. In addition, people celebrate by eating oily foods such as; pancakes, doughnuts, latkes which is a type of potato fritters as well as deep-fried puff pastry balls.