Hanukkah is so much more than just a good-natured excuse for Jews to give gifts around Christmas — but there is something to that idea. Traditionally, Hanukkah isn’t meant to be a significant or large holiday. In fact, many overlooked holidays such as Sukkot, the celebration of the harvest, and Rosh Chodesh, the celebration of every new month, are far more meaningful in terms of tradition and religious value.
However, due to its chronological proximity to Christmas, Hanukkah has become a widely celebrated holiday. It marks the anniversary of the Maccabean revolt to reclaim the temple of Jerusalem. In the famous tale, the Maccabees did not have enough purified oil to light the temple’s grand lanterns for celebration. Miraculously, the small flask they had left over lasted eight full days and nights — just long enough to prepare a fresh supply of pure oil.
In honor of this classic story, Jews light (much smaller) menorahs on Hanukkah for eight consecutive nights. According to tradition, the women of the house must rest until the candles have been burning for a half-hour — or, for more traditional families, until the flame burns out. Some families refrain from using technology during this time, as well. Others, on the other hand, watch great Hanukkah TV specials with their families. More tasty traditions have arisen, as well, including eating fried latkes and other sweeter treats cooked with olive oil.
Along with these communal celebrations, some nations have merged their own countries’ cultures with these customs from ancient times. In this slideshow, you’ll find rituals and celebrations from around the world to document this Jewish tradition.