Every Jewish boy and girl hears the same Hanukkah story growing up: In ancient times, the sacred temple was destroyed. When the Maccabees went to rebuild it, they were only able to find enough olive oil to keep the candles burning for a single night. Miraculously, though, the oil burned for eight, allowing just enough time to find more. This is why we celebrate the eight-night "festival of lights" known as Hanukkah. We light candles and eat oil-fried foods like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) to commemorate the miracle. But, as is this case with most holiday origin stories, this simple explanation is likely incorrect.
Most scholars admit that the story of Hanukkah is hard to verify, convoluted, contradictory and a product of centuries of history and traditions that have been mashed together. In addition, it also seems it originally had little to do with oil.
According to the First Book of the Maccabees, the story starts about 2200 years ago when the land today we know today as Israel was called Judea, which was part of the Seleucid Empire and under the rule of King Antiochus IV. While his father King Antiochus III was relatively benevolent when it came to religious practice, the KA4 was not. In 168 BCE, he decided to outlaw all religions besides his own (a version of Greek polytheism). When many Jews refused to stop practicing, Antiochus sent soldiers into the holy city of Jerusalem where they massacred civilians and destroyed the city's Second Temple. In its place, he built an altar dedicated to Zeus complete with a big pig sacrifice (swine, of course, is not kosher). This led to a family of rebels known as the Maccabees (meaning "hammer") to revolt against Antiochus' forces. Despite being out manned, the Maccabees were able to expel the enemy and get their temple back. Soon after, they were able to rebuild and dedicate the temple once again. Hanukkah, which actually translates to "establishing" or "dedication," is actually the celebration of the temple being rededicated.