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When Does Hanukkah Start? (And What Does It Celebrate?)

The Jewish Festival of Lights, also known at Hanukkah or Chanukah, begins at sundown tonight, Saturday, in commemoration of the victory by the Jewish Maccabees in the 2nd century BCE and one-day supply of menorah oil burning for eight days.

The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, also called the Festival of Lights, begins this year on Saturday, Dec. 8, at sundown.

In the Hebrew lunar calendar, Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is celebrated on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. Hanukkah runs for eight days and will conclude this year on the night of Dec. 16.

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is a celebration commemorating the Maccabean Revolt, a battle between the Jews and the Seleucids, who ruled Israel more than 2,000 years ago.

The Jews drove the Seleucids out of Jerusalem and reclaimed their desecrated holy temple, according to the Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center

The victors found a one-day supply of olive oil that had not been contaminated by the Seleucids and used it to light the temple menorah, or sacred candelabrum. The miracle of Hanukkah is that the oil, which was supposed to last for only one day, burned strong for eight days, hence the length of time Hanukkah is celebrated today.

The Festival of Lights is observed in modern times by lighting a candle on the menorah on each of the eight nights. Other customs include eating traditional foods made from oil including potato latkes and deep fried donuts known as sufganiyot, and playing with a spinning top called a dreidel, which is inscribed with the Hebrew acronym for "A great miracle happened there."

The San Francisco Bay Area has the fourth largest population of Jews in the country, with some 227,800 living here, according to a 2011 report by the North American Jewish Data Bank. New York is the largest with a population of 1.4 million Jews.

Do you plan to celebrate Hanukkah? You can tell us in the comments section below.

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