It originates in a crisis in Judea nearly 2200 years ago. A hellenistic Syrian regime tried to squash freedom of worship and conscience and imposed heathen ways and customs, even introducing idols into the Temple in Jerusalem.
The banner of revolt was raised by a brave few, the Maccabees. Not everyone had the courage to follow. But eventually their efforts succeeded. Freedom was re-won. The Temple was cleansed. The eternal light (menorah) was rekindled. The celebration was named Chanukah, “dedication”.
Every year Chanukah is marked by the kindling of lights. The ceremonies take place in Jewish homes, but also outside them, because Chanukah has a message for everybody.
It says that the human spirit can not be dimmed for ever. It says that any attempt to withhold human freedoms is bound to fail. It says that miracles do happen, helped along by the miraculous spirit of optimism and faith. It says that people have the right to believe – or not to believe. It says that everyone is entitled to love and respect, even if they differ in creed or colour, opinion or ethnic origin.