Hanukkah begins Wednesday night
Jennifer Lee Preyss
Nov. 30, 2010 at 5:30 a.m.
The Festival of Lights, otherwise known as Hanukkah, begins Wednesday night in Jewish homes across the globe.
The eight-night celebration, which marks the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after it was destroyed during the second century Maccabean Revolt, is observed by lighting a nine-branch Menorah for a period of eight nights.
The additional candle on the ninth branch of the Menorah is called the shamash, which is used to light the other eight candles.
The candles represent the "miracle of the container of oil" referenced in the Talmud. After the Holy Temple was destroyed, there was enough olive oil to light the Temple's eternal flame for one day, but the oil burned for eight days.
Because of its proximity to Christmas, falling each year on the 25th day of the ninth month of the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah is one of the better known Jewish holidays, though it is not considered the most religiously significant holiday in the Jewish faith.
Hanukkah is observed with candle lighting, gift exchanges and festive indoor-outdoor decorations. Celebrations will officially conclude Dec. 9.