Blue Swarovski Crystal Dreidel Earrings
More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band led by Judah Maccabee of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d. (Note from LB: This is the true reason to celebrate Chanukah.)
Copper & Black Hematite Beaded wire kippah
When they sought to light the Temple's menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.
To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.
On Chanukah we also add the Hallel and Al HaNissim in our daily prayers to offer praise and thanksgiving to G-d for "delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few... the wicked into the hands of the righteous."
This year, we light the first candle on Sat., Dec. 8 at sundown. The first "day" of Hanukkah is Sun., Dec. 9. Are you having latkes?
To answer the question Dorene had about why gifts are given at Hanukkah, I did a little research. It is, as I suspected, to imitate Christmas gift giving. But, there is more information. You can read it at http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Hanukkah/At_Home/hanukkah-gifts.shtml (it's pretty interesting, I think).