The menorah is central to Hanukkah, the celebration of a key event in Jewish history. In 165 B.C., a group of Jewish liberation fighters known as the Maccabees recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem from their enemies, the Syrian Greeks. The Greeks had extinguished the flame in the temple's menorah, and as the Maccabees set the temple to order, they discovered they only had enough oil to keep its not-to-be-extinguished flame lit for one day. Miraculously, the flame burned for eight days on the sparse oil, giving the Maccabees time to find more oil for the eternal flame.
Today, Hanukkah celebrators exchange gifts for eight days to commemorate the length of the menorah miracle, and they light the menorah ceremonially on each of the eight nights.