Jews like to light up, a lot.
We bring Shabbos in with lighting. All the holidays are brought in the same with an additional prayer. We also say goodbye to Shabbos and Yom Tovs with Havdalah. During Shiva and Yahrzeit (and whenever one visits a grave site) we light candles. Some have the custom (like us) when lighting the Shabbos candles to light one for each child. Chanukah is the holiday of lights.
What is the meaning of lighting a fire?
Fire is the element that is neither in this world like earth and water or in the other world like air. It is in between. Fire can consume or warm us.
Fire can be negative: the words in Hebrew for man איש and woman אשה have 2 letters that are the same and 2 which are different. A couple who build together a relationship by bringing G-d י”ה in; will have peace. A man and a woman who have no interest in the spirituality will be consumed by fire אש.
Or fire can be positive: Noah was compared to a “Tsaddik in peltz” the person who took care of his own spiritual needs; opposed to the preferred tsaddik who builds a fire and warms everyone near him.
The consistent meaning is – spiritual. Fire represents spirituality.
When a person dies (or is remembered on his yahrzeit and at his grave) we light a candle. We remind ourselves that the person isn’t really gone; he has moved to a new place, but spiritually we can still tap into his neshama, his essence – the soul. (That is also why when greeting a mourner we use G-d’s name of Makom – THE PLACE).
When the first Shabbos left Adam and Chava (Eve) for the first time they found themselves in darkness. They made a fire and Havdalah was commemorated. The fire represented their new reality thus the need to bring spirituality into our/their lives when we are facing darkness.
When Yitzhak brought Rivkah into the tent of Sarah, his mother – She became like Sarah, for as long as Sarah lived, the candle lights burned from one Shabbos to the next, there was blessing in the dough, and a cloud hovered over her tent. When she died, the miracles ceased, but when Rivkah came, they returned. The candles brought in spiritual light.
The Chanukah lights are like the small Jew who fought against the great Greek empire. The light of the Jews conquered the Greek philosophy which was a belief in only the physical: what is seen is all that is real. Spirituality, the concept of Creation, the concept of G-d could not exist. Yet the mighty oil of the menorah lasted 8 days and almost 3000 years.
Have a good Shabbos.