This religious holiday lasts eight days

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that is celebrated over eight days in winter. This year it started Dec. 25.

Hanukkah commemorates what happened after a victory by the Jews over the Syrians in a war that took place more than 2,000 years ago.

After three years of fierce battle, the smaller Jewish army prevailed over the larger Syrian army. In the victory celebration, Judas Maccabaeus, a Jewish leader, rededicated the temple in Jerusalem, which had been occupied by the Syrians.

Before that ceremony, the Jews looked everywhere for oil to light a ceremonial candelabrum called a menorah, but found only enough oil to light the menorah for a day.

When the oil lasted not just one day but for eight days, the people saw it as miraculous. Today Jews celebrate the lamp burning eight nights by lighting a candle in a menorah each night.

In many families, small gifts are exchanged when the menorah is lighted. Traditional Jewish games are played, too. One popular game uses a dreidel. It's a small spinning top with Hebrew letters on each of its four sides.

Of course, no celebration would be complete without good food. And there's no lack of good food during Hanukkah. Most contain oil, a central theme of the holiday.

Latkes are a favorite Hanukkah dish. Latkes are potato pancakes fried in vegetable oil. Sufganiyots (jelly-filled doughnuts) are another favorite Hanukkah food.

• Sources: www.historychannel. com; www.theholidayspot.com.

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