“And Judas, and his brethren, and all the church of Israel decreed, that the day of the dedication of the altar should be kept in its season from year to year for eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month of Casleu, with joy and gladness.” The First Book of the Maccabees, Old Testament, 4:59.
To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Hanukkah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on until the eighth night of Hanukkah, when all eight lights are kindled.
Hanukkah customs include eating foods fried in oil -- latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts); playing with the dreidel (a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, "a great miracle happened there"); and the giving of Hanukkah gelt, gifts of money, to children.
Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. The Jewish calendar is primarily based on the lunar cycle, and its dates fluctuate with respect to other calendar systems. Thus, the first day of Hanukkah can fall anywhere between November 28 and December 26.