From the World ORT website: Chanukah (also spelled Hanukah and Hanukkah), the Festival of Lights, is celebrated for eight days to commemorate the victory of the Jews over the Hellenist Syrians in 165 BCE.
Following their victory, the Maccabees, who led the Jews in their revolt against the Syrian overlords, entered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem defiled by the Syrian invaders, cleansed it and dedicated it anew to the service of God. Then, in memory of their victory, the Maccabees celebrated the first Chanukah. (Chanukah is the Hebrew term for dedication).
The Talmud, the body of Jewish oral law, relates how the Judean heroes, led by Judah Maccabee, were making ready to rededicate the Temple and were unable to find enough undefiled oil to light the lamps. However, in one of the Temple chambers, they came upon a small cruse of oil which, under normal circumstances, would have lasted only one evening. Miraculously, this small amount of oil kept the Temple lights burning, not for one night, but for all the eight nights until new oil fit for use in the Temple could be obtained. This is the miracle commemorated by the kindling of the Chanukah lights on the Menorah, a nine-branch candelabrum. On each night, one more light is kindled, beginning with one candle on the first night of Chanukah and ending with eight on the final evening. The ninth branch is reserved for the shamash, the servant light, which is lit first and used to kindle the other lights of the Menorah The lighting is accompanied by the chanting of appropriate blessings and the singing of songs.
Chanukah is a joyful family festival. Gifts are exchanged, parties are given, children play games and latkes (potato pancakes) are served. These are delicacies made with oil, long associated with Chanukah.
The children play dreidel, a game of luck. The dreidel has four sides, each bearing a Hebrew letter – nun, gimel, hey, and shin – the initials of “Ness Gadol Haya Sham” meaning “a great miracle took place there.”
And should you want to send a Chanukah “cod,” look no further!