The History of Hanukkah
Hanukkah represents the resolve of the Jewish people to preserve their religion and the right to practice it. It commemorates the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple following the victory of Jewish warriors over their oppressors. The word Hanukkah means "dedication."
About 200 B.C.E. (before common era), the Jews were governed by the Seleucid dynasty, a Greek-Syrian kingdom that ruled Palestine. King Antiochus Epiphanes outlawed Jewish rituals and forced Jews to worship Greek gods. In 168 B.C.E., the Jews' beloved Temple was seized and dedicated to the worship of Zeus Olympius.
Three years later, the forces of Judah Maccabee, whose family initiated the revolt, recaptured Jerusalem and liberated the Temple.
The victorious Maccabees could find just one flask of oil -- one day's worth -- to light the menorah to rededicate the Temple to God. But according to the Talmud, the body of Jewish law, the oil somehow lasted for eight days, until fresh oil could be obtained.
The major ritual of Hanukkah is lighting one candelabra of a special eight-branched menorah on each night of the holiday, thus commemorating the eight-day miracle.