Today the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, begins. It is an eight-day celebration, (sundown 11 December to sundown 19 December 2009), with lots of food, family, tradition and spirituality.
The festival began after the victorious revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes IV between 167 and 165 BCE. Antiochus outlawed Jewish worship and sacrifices, while forcing the worship of the Greek gods on the population. Mattathias, the high priest in Jerusalem, killed a Hellenistic Jew who was trying to offer a sacrifice to the Greek gods. He and his five sons fled into the wilderness. Mattathias died a year later and his son, Judah Maccabee, continued to gather an army and wage gorilla warfare.
Following the victory, the Temple in Jerusalem was cleansed and rededicated for Jewish Worship. During that time the Menorah, the large seven pronged candlestick, burned for eight days without the daily need for refilling of oil. It was a sign of G_d’s blessing and provision. During the Festival, there are candles that are lit and fried foods eaten in remembrance of the miracle of both the Maccabeean victory and the provision of the oil for the lamp.
Jerusalem continued to have troubles as the five sons of Mattathias took turns at leadership. Each was either assassinated or died in battle. There was some calm after the death of the youngest Maccabee around 129 BEC. However, in the time since the cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem, foreign governments did not interfere with Jewish worship until the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.