The Feast of Lights begins at sundown tonight. A rather humorous modern take on the miracle of Hanukkah says, “OK, your phone is down to ten percent and it lasts eight days, until you can find a plug. That’s Hanukkah.”
[Waits for sighing and head-shakes to finish.]
In a way, Hanukkah goes back to Alexander the Great, and the generals who divided his empire after his death. The Greeks recognized that the Children of Israel had an ancient religion (as the Romans would also do, later.) However, they didn’t appreciate certain Jews insisting that their way was the only way and the that Greek administrators could just stay out of the way.
At first the Greeks did, until the question of taxes came up. To make a complicated story short, some Jews balked at paying taxes that went to pay for Gentile religious sacrifices, among other things. The Greeks, under Antiochus, decided to force the matter by making the Seleuicd empire unified in law, taxes, and religion. That meant eliminating minority outliers like Judaism, especially once the Romans started meddling in the region as well.
The result was the Maccabee Revolt, and the need to purify the temple in Jerusalem after the Greeks defiled it. One of the things needed was ritually pure oil for the sacred lamp. Enough was found for one night. It lasted for eight, until sufficient oil could be found, ritually purified, and brought to the temple. This is the miracle of Hanukkah, the sign that G-d was with His people still.
Hanukkah wasn’t a major observation on the Jewish calendar, not like Christmas was/is for Christianity. Since the Holocaust and the founding of Israel, it has taken on more meanings for contemporary Judaism, and although not as central as the High Holy Days and Passover, it has gained a new importance.