Chanukah is celebrated by lighting candles. The Chanukah candelabrum, called a menorah, is designed to hold eight candles plus one more, the candle that lights the others. One candle is lit on the first night of Chanukah, and one more each night, until eight candles are lit on the eighth night.
Why eight days? The holiday commemorates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE, following years of war. Special oil was required to light the candelabra in the temple, but only enough oil was found for one day. The story is told that the oil lasted for eight days, long enough for more oil to be supplied.
Chanukah is considered a joyous holiday. In 2012, Chanukah starts on the evening of December 8, on the evening before the first day of Chanukah. Since the holiday is celebrated according to the lunar calendar, the start date is different year to year.
By tradition, children are given coins and play with dreidels (four-sided tops). Each side of the top has a letter on it signifying whether you ante up into the kitty, take half, take all, or do nothing.
And why latkes? It's all about the oil! You need plenty of oil to fry up a batch of latkes.
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