Chanukah (Festival of Lights)serves to remind the Jewish people of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the Maccabean Revolt during the second century BCE. The celebration of Chanukah lasts for eight days and eight nights on which the first day begins of the twenty-fifth day of Kislev.
The celebration is observed by the lighting of the candles on a candelabrum called a Menorah. A Menorah consists of eight different branches with a single additional raised branch. An additional candle is placed in this setting in order to use to light the remaining eight candles. The reasoning behind this is that using one of the eight candles to light another is forbidden.
Celebrated during Chanukah are a variety of rituals that are performed throughout the eight day period. Some of these rituals are family oriented and others are communal. Some of these rituals include: kindling the Chanukah lights, candlelighting time, the blessing over the candles, singing the hymn Henerot Halalu and Maoz Tzur.
Another significant part of Chanukah, which is geared more towards young children, is the Dreidel. A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top toy on which each side is imprinted with a different Hebrew letter. The letters are acronyms for different Hebrew words. A game is played by spinning the dreidel and depending on which side is facing upwards the individual who spun must play one of four moves. The player who ends up gathering the remaining players pieces is announced the winner.
Chanukah gained an increase in importance in North America with Jewish families towards the later half of the twentieth century. Many secular Jews wanted a Jewish alternative to the Christian holiday, Christmas. Although the traditional Ashkenazi Jews gave gelt or money coins to small children during the time of Chanukah, they later adopted the idea of gift giving in order to keep Jewish children from feeling left out of the Christmas gift giving.