SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) — Hanukkah, Hebrew for “dedication,” is a Jewish festival that reaffirms the ideals of Judaism and commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem by the lighting of candles on each day of the festival, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

Hanukkah is one of the earliest Jewish holidays. It is 2200 years old, the Jewish Historical Institute states, which means that it was already popular and celebrated during the times of Jesus. Most likely, he himself as a practicing Jew, took part in the celebrations.

In more detail, the holiday commemorates the Maccabean victories over the forces of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who reigned 175–164 BCE, and the rededication of the Temple on Kislev 25, 164 BCE.

Hanukkah came to be widely celebrated and remains one of the most popular Jewish religious observances. This year, the festival will be held from Monday, Dec. 19 to Monday, Dec. 26, marking an eight-day celebration.

The holiday has many spellings and names: Hanukkah, Ḥanukka, Chanukah, or Chanukkah, also called Feast of Dedication, Festival of Lights, or Feast of the Maccabees.

“On the streets, in synagogues and on roofs of houses, you can see Hanukkah lamps shining with vivid light, which signals that holiday time is coming,” the Jewish Historical Institute states.

The Maccabees were the first Jews who fought to defend their religious beliefs rather than their lives. The effort was led by Mattathias and his son Judas Maccabeus, Britannica states.

According to writings excluded from the Jewish canon but included in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Old Testament canons, Antiochus reportedly invaded Judaea, tried to Hellenize, or “make Greek,” the Jews, and desecrated the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

The Jewish people were victorious in a three-year struggle against Antiochus, and Judas ordered the “cleansing and restoration of the Temple.” After it was purified, a new altar was reportedly installed and dedicated on Kislev 25. Britannica states that Judas then proclaimed that the dedication of the restored Temple should be celebrated every year for eight days beginning on that date.

The celebration is compared to the festival of Sukkoth, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths, which the Jews were “unable to celebrate because of the invasion of Antiochus,” Britannica states. Hanukkah, therefore, emerged as a celebration of the dedication.

Here is an explanation of the lighting of the menorah, according to Encyclopedia Britannica:

Although the traditional practice of lighting candles at Hanukkah was not established in the books of the Maccabees, the practice is enshrined in the Talmud, Shabbat 21b, which describes the miracle of the oil in the Temple. Britannica states that according to the Talmud, when Judas Maccabeus entered the Temple, he found only a small jar of oil that had not been defiled by Antiochus. The jar contained only enough oil to burn for one day, but “miraculously, the oil burned for eight days until new consecrated oil could be found, establishing the precedent that the festival should last eight days.”

Perhaps the most important of all Hanukkah traditions is the lighting of the menorah each evening. Also known as the “Hanukkah lamp,” the menorah recalls the Temple lampstand and is a simple or elaborate candelabra with eight branches, plus a holder for the shammash candle, or “servant” candle.

One candle is lit on the first evening, and an additional candle is lit on each subsequent evening until eight candles are burning on the last evening. Olive oil was traditionally used for lighting the menorah, but it was replaced by candles, Britannica states. A blessing is also offered when the candles are lit each night.