The large Jewish population of the United States has long enjoyed religious freedom and kept up traditional Jewish holidays like Hanukkah. While Hanukkah normally comes near Christmastime, it has nothing to do with Christmas and is based in the history of Judaism and of the Jewish people.
Hanukkah commemorates the rebellion of Judah against Syrian oppression in 162 B.C. Following the victory, the temple was cleansed and the temple’s candlestick (menorah) lit. There was only enough oil, it is said, for a single day, but the menorah miraculously kept burning for eight days until more ceremonial oil could be prepared.
On the first day of Hanukkah, a menorah is lit, and there are special blessings pronounced. People also eat foods fried in olive oil, including potato pancakes, Hanukkah donuts, pastries, and a hard bread called mandelbrot. Additionally, special Hanukkah games are played using a top-like toy called a “dreidel”, and many people exchange gifts. Similar activities continue until the eighth and final day of Hanukkah.