Chanukkah (The Festival of Dedication/Lights) 25th of Kislev–2nd of Tevet
Chanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees, a small band of Jewish fighters, over the Syrian Greeks who occupied the land of Israel, and G-d’s faithfulness and deliverance during the period from 168 to 165 B.C. The area of Judea came under the control of Antiochus IV after Alexander the Great had conquered the entire ancient world of the Eastern Mediterranean 150 years previous. During the year 167 B.C., under the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (god manifest), the Syrian Greeks sought to impose their Hellenistic culture, even going so far as to defile the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar, banning Jewish practice, and erecting a statue of Zeus in the Holy of Holies! This was the first “abomination of desolation”, as predicted by the prophet Daniel (11:31-32).
Finally the Maccabees revolted and, against all odds, led a three-year guerrilla war and drove out the Greeks in 165 B.C., re-entering the city and the Temple.
After their victory, the Maccabees rededicated Temple, but there was only enough oil to be burned in the menorah to last one day. It would take eight days to acquire more. They lit the menorah anyway, which, miraculously burned for eight days! Thus the Festival of Dedication celebrated the Maccabees victory over the Syrian Greeks and the rededication of the Temple.
Chanukkah is celebrated using a nine-branched candelabra, or menorah, eight recalling the eight-day miracle, the ninth representing the shamash (servant) candle used to light the others. Each evening during the holiday, an additional candle is lit and is often accompanied by the exchanging of gifts.