The Hanukkah menorah is a nine-branched candelabrum (candle holder) lit during the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts. The Hebrew word menorah simply means "lamp”.
On every night of Hanukkah, another flame is lit: one the first day, two the second day etc., until eight flames are burning on the eighth night. There is an additional candle, known as the shamash from which the flames are lit. Shamash means attendant, or caretaker in Hebrew. The central Shamash is the first candle to be lit. It is then used to light the other ones and could be considered a caretaker for the others. The specially crafted implement on which the Hanukkah flames are lit is the menorah.
The origins of this holiday are in the second century BCE, when the Holy Land was ruled by a foreign power who tried to force the people to abandon their beliefs. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews called the Maccabees drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple and rededicated it to the service of God. When they sought to light the menorah, they found only a single jar of oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, they lit the menorah, and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity. To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Hanukkah.