Hanukkah is a Jewish festival that is observed to celebrate the victory of the Jewish Maccabees' military over the Greek-Syrians. The holiday usually falls in the Jewish month of Kislev in December and extends for a period of eight days. The festivities make the holiday appear like Jewish Christmas. However, Hanukkah is a different festival, which has history and traditions of its own. On this auspicious day, Jews kindle lights of a special candelabrum, a Menorah, with nine branches or a Hanukiah. One light is lit on every night of the eight day holiday. One extra light, known as shamash, is also lit everyday and is usually located above or below the rest of the lights.
Hanukkah is also known by the name Chanukah. It marks the celebration of Jewish national survival and religious freedom. It is also called the Festival of Lights, Feast of Dedication and Feast of the Maccabees. The Jewish Macabees had secured a victory over Greek-Syrians, driving their army, which was far larger than their own, out of Judea. Hanukkah is commemorated to honor the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem in 165 BC. The purification of the rescued Temple started on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, in the year 165 BCE. Now, the Hanukkah festival starts on the same day.
Families get together for feasting and playing games. After lighting the Hanukkah candles, traditional food is cooked in Jewish households. The food items prepared are rich in oil and potato pancakes are a special Hanukkah favorite. Israelis eat special Hanukkah doughnuts on this day, which are known as Soofganiot. A gift giving tradition has also evolved over the years in many Jewish families, from the custom of giving Hanukkah gelt (money) to children. The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy by the Jews across the world. Especially for children, Hanukkah is a great fun festival.