Hanukkah - Feast of Dedication / Festival of Lights
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At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.
Jewish Holiday: Hanukkah
Significance: Hanukkah, a traditional holiday, celebrates the victory of the Maccabees and Israel’s salvation from the hands of the Greeks in 165 BCE. It also celebrates the miracle of one day’s worth of oil for the Temple menorah that kept on burning for eight days
Customs: The lighting of candles displayed on a hanukkiah for eight nights (one candle for each night). Fried foods, gift giving, gelt and playing the dreidel
Length: Eight days - Kislev (Ninth) 25 - Tevet (Tenth) 2/3
Though not found in the TaNaKh (The Scriptures, i.e., the "Old Testament"), the story of Hanukkah is found in the Apocrypha’s First and Second Maccabees of the Septuagint, the Mishna and the Talmud.
Tradition holds, as recorded in the Gemara, that after defeating Antiochus IV and driving his forces out from the Temple, very little of the prescribed oil (Exod. 27:20) to light and keep the Temple menorah lit (Exod. 25:31-40; Lev. 24:2) was left or undefiled by the Syrian-Greeks.
There was only one-day’s worth left, and proper scriptural preparation of this oil was said to take up to eight days. The “Miracle of Lights” is that this one-day supply of oil lasted and burned for the entire eight-day period needed to prepare the fresh batch. Judah, the leader of the Maccabees and the eldest son of the now deceased High Priest Mattityahu, instituted an eight-day festival to commemorate the miracle.
Hanukkah is also not a “religious” holiday per se, unlike the religious foundation and significance found in all of the Feasts of Leviticus 23. The traditional candle lighting is as “religious” as Hanukkah gets but, for example, our family thanks God for the continued deliverance of His people and the Land and we pray for the continued peace of Jerusalem and Messiah’s quick return during Hanukkah’s candle lighting.
Gift giving, though not an original tradition to Hanukkah, has become as popular as playing the dreidel or the giving and receiving of gelt.
How Do You Spell H.A.N.U.K.K.A.H?
Hanukkah is not an alternative to Christmas in our community or within our family. As a family, we didn’t actually celebrate Christmas, per se. Based on our understanding of the roots of Christmas, we never did the tree, ornaments, lights, wreath or nativity – all of the paraphernalia and traditions that accompany the event, because of the simple fact that the observance has absolutely nothing to do with the birth of Messiah – Sukkot does. We hold to the position that “Christianizing” paganism, syncretism (the mixture of the holy and the profane,) is highly frowned upon by God (Deut. 12:1-4, 28-32).
Unlike the Romanized Western Church’s alternative, the celebration of Hanukkah isn’t a “good” religious exercise rooted in paganism. In fact, Hanukkah is rooted in aligning with the absolutes of God’s scriptural instructions in the face of pagan worship.
Before our family started celebrating Hanukkah, what we did do during the Christmas holiday season was a traditional “Christmas Day” meal (it was actually more of a Thanksgiving Day meal) that we prepared and served for others. It started out as a way to minister to seminary students in the area that were away from home and family that did participate in Christmas. This grew to additional friends, family members and others joining us that were also away from family and who did observe “Christ’s mass.” We did this as a ministry for them simply because people tend to become homesick and lonely during this time. Also, not everyone around the table professed the Christian faith, so it was quite a diverse group. We do the exact same thing today with Hanukkah.
There’s still no tree, no “Christmas” ornaments, lights, wreath or nativity scene. Instead, you'll find typical and traditional Hanukkah decorations, music and foods (potato latkes and jelly doughnuts!!!) Since our Hanukkah Party is held toward the end of the eight days, both menorahs and hanukkiahs are alight with candles. It’s a come-and-go celebration, a sort of buffet soiree where Christians, Mormons, Jews, pagans, Buddhists and the non-affiliated in our lives can come and enjoy themselves. Everyone is welcome.
It is an old custom to display the hanukkiah where its light can be seen from outside. There’s something special about winter nights, a fire in the fireplace, a glass of wine and the glow of the hanukkiah lights.