Shutterstock 748167229

Hanukkah is the eight-day Jewish festival usually held in late November or December, also known as the "festival of lights". This year, it starts on the evening of Thursday 10 December.

Jews across the world celebrate the re-dedication of the Jerusalem Temple to the Jewish Faith during a rebellion in the second century BCE. When the victorious Jews sought to light the Temple's Menorah (a seven-branched candelabrum), they found only a single jar of oil. It is considered a miracle that the one-day supply of oil lasted for a whole eight days and nights until new ritually-pure oil could be found. It is this miracle that Hanukkah celebrates.

As well as certain additional prayers being added to daily services, the main observation is the nightly lighting of the Menorah (which has nine branches). Each night of Hanukkah, one additional candle is lit until all the candles are lit on the final night. Further traditions include eating fried foods cooked in oil such as donuts, and - the key for all the kids - giving Hanukkah presents.

For my young children, Hanukkah is without doubt number one on their festival list. The gifts, the donuts, the candle lighting, what's not to love?

In the vast array of Jewish festivals, Hanukkah is of relatively minor religious significance, but it does have huge cultural importance. As the 'Jewish Christmas', it is widely observed even amongst the most secular of Jews.

This year will, of course, be different to normal. Hanukkah is often accompanied by fairs and other public celebrations within Jewish communities such as public Menorah-lighting ceremonies. None of these celebrations will be going ahead this year. Wider families and friends usually gather together for candle lightings, and my wife and I would always join with our parents and siblings for at least a couple of the nights. Based on the current tier system, this will not be possible.

However, the main message of the Hanukkah story and the festival's observance is that a little goes a long way. Oil that was supposed to last only one day, lasted for eight days and eight nights. As the first Hanukkah candles are lit at dusk tonight, they will serve as a beacon in the dark. The world as a whole has been testing its reserves of kindness, patience and generosity for much longer than eight nights. What most thought would have lasted only a few months, has lasted us until now. With the vaccine now becoming available, there is some light at the end of the dark tunnel.