There is an idea in the Talmud that for thirty days prior to a holiday, one should begin reviewing the details of that holiday. Although this specifically refers to Pesach and Sukkot (which are very complex days that require much preparation), this concept also applies to other days in our calendar. So although we are only nine days away, now is a good time to begin our preparations.
Chanukah commemorates the victory of a band of Jews (the Chashmonayim, sometimes called Maccabees) who fought against Greek occupation of Jerusalem during the time of the Second Temple. The Greeks forbade a number of Jewish practices (such as Bris Milah, Shabbat, and keeping a Jewish calendar) and introduced idolatry into the Temple. Many Jews also assimilated into the Greek lifestyle. After the Chashmonayim drove out the Greeks, the Temple was rededicated, and the Menorah was relit, miraculously burning seven days longer than was possible, until new oil cold be produced. The Rabbis instituted that these days be marked by an annual holiday called "Chanukah", which means "dedication".
As Chanukah is a Rabbinic holiday not mentioned in the Torah, there are no work restrictions, and we are not required to make Kiddush or have any special meals, and in the Temple no additional (Musaf) sacrifices were offered. Nevertheless, there are a number of special practices. There is a Mitzvah to light the Chanukah Menorah each night, beginning with one candle and increasing the number until there are eight. Some families have a custom that everyone in the house lights their own menorah, in others only the father lights. The Menorah must be lit at home.(Sometimes at synagogue parties, families bring their menorahs and light there. This is not proper, rather they should light when returning home.) The menorah should be lit shortly after sunset, (except on Friday night when it is lit before sunset, and Saturday night when it is lit after nightfall), and the candles should burn for roughly thirty minutes after dark.
Chanukah is a time for us to increase our pride in being Jewish, and to remember that even in the face of oppression and darkness, the light of goodness can still shine. To be continued next week.....