*As you probably know, the Jewish calendar is not the same as the Gregorian calendar we usually use. Hannukah officially begins on 25 Kislev and ends on the 2nd or 3rd day of Tevet (depending on how many days are in Kislev that year). In 2012, that means Hannukah begins at sundown, December 8, and ends nightfall, December 16.
The story of the original “Festival of Lights” has been gathered from the apocryphal books of 1st and 2nd Maccabees, the Talmud, and others. In the 160’s BC, the Maccabees (led by Judah “the Hammer”) successfully revolted against the Seleucids. They immediately purified the temple and declared a celebration, but there was a problem. There was only enough oil to light the temple menorah for one day. The Jews lit the menorah anyway, and it burned miraculously for eight whole days.
Now, people pray and light the menorah, one new candle each night, and place it in a window or near the door to remind people of this miracle. Families also give gifts, play dreidel, eat latkes, and generally celebrate with a great variety of traditions for the eight days of Hannukah.
“You are my lamp, O Lord;
the Lord turns my darkness into light.”
2 Samuel 22:29