While the focal point of the holiday season is Christmas celebrating the birth of Christ, the season of lights, and Jesus's biggest fan, St. Nicholas, there is another festival that also celebrates light, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
Other than Adam Sandler's Hanukkah song, the majority of us are probably a little fuzzy on what Hanukkah is other than it's long and has something to do with lights.
History of Hanukkah
The Wikipedia description of Hanukkah is:
Hanukkah(/ˈhɑːnəkə/ hah-nə-kə;Hebrew:חֲנֻכָּה,Tiberian:Ḥănukkāh, usually spelledחנוכה, pronounced[χanuˈka]inModern Hebrew; a transliteration also romanized as Chanukah or Chanukkah), also known as the Festival of Lights, Feast of Dedication, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire of the 2nd century BC. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar before 3032. In 3032 the first day of Hanukkah will fall to January 1, 3033 but it will still start on the prior evening. In 3316 there will be no Hanukkah because the first day will fall to January 2, 3317. In 3317 there will be a second Hanukkah starts on December 22.
Those are the facts, but it doesn't explain the essence of the festival. At the core, it is a celebration of the goodness and faithfulness of God and, like Passover, a remembrance of his deliverance.
Under the leadership of Judah Maccabee, the Jews had revolted against the Greek oppressors and established their independence. The final straw that sparked the revolt was the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes. After the independence was won, the Temple had to be rededicated. The focal point of the observances beyond the sacrifices was the lighting of the menorah in the Temple. The menorah, a candelabra with seven lamps, was to be lit with oil that had been specially prepared and had to remain lit.
There was only enough oil to keep the lamps lit for one day; but according to the account of the miracle of Hanukkah, the one day supply of oil lasted for eight days until more oil could be prepared. The eight day celebration of Hanukkah is a commemoration and celebration of that, of God's deliverance from their enemies, and his faithfulness to provide.
Just like there is debate from some quarters about the observance of Christmas, there is debate about the origins of Hanukkah as well. It's nothing new. While Jesus walked the earth, the leading rabbis of the day, Hillel and Shammei were debating how the lighting of the hanukkiah should be done. Some people, who seem to be anti-anything, make the same claims about Hanukkah that people do about Christmas, that it has its roots in a pagan holiday. Some people say there was no miracle, that it was made up by rabbis as an excuse to celebrate Sukkot at a later time.
You may be saying, "I'm not Jewish, what does this have to do with me?" Well, if you're a Christian . . . Jesus is Jewish and he actually celebrated Hanukkah (John 10:22.) It is interesting to wonder how he observed it, whether he followed the dictates of Hillel or Shammei, or did something completely different. I kind of think he might have done his own thing, after all his statement of the Golden Rule was actually a refutation of Hillel's.
Maybe you're saying, "That's still not my thing."
One thing that is true for everyone is that life happens and while the holidays can be a wonderful time, the truth is that "life happening" tends to get more intense around this time. Maybe this will be the first holiday after the loss of a loved one. Maybe your family is in crisis, your marriage a mess, and your kids out of control. Maybe you're feeling so overwhelmed with the everyday pressures, plus the added holiday stress, and then the overachiever friends with their perfectly decorated homes, children, and holiday cookies and their over imaginative Elf on a Shelf that you're about ready to throw in the towel.
Christmas is about heaven coming to earth, the virgin birth announced by angels. There was a lot of the spectacular supernatural going on. Hanukkah is about God showing up in the little things. There weren't any angels singing. The lamp just stayed lit. God came through.
Sometimes we need to remember that no matter what we're going through, God will be there with us in the everyday little things.
Hanukkah Celebration at Town Center
If you've decided, "Hey, this Hanukkah thing is pretty cool, I want to check it out," you're in luck. Humble's Temple Beth Torah is hosting a Hanukkah celebration on Wednesday, December 17th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at Town Center park and the public is invited. Led by Rabbi Dan Gordon, the celebration will feature music by Motzy, a candle lighting for the second night of Hanukkah, and refreshments. Both children and adults are welcome to attend.
More on Hanukkah
A documentary on Hanukkah. This states it is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. That is actually because the revolt occured in 165 B.C. after the canon of the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh or Old Testament. It is actually mentioned in the New Testament in John 10:22 when it says that Jesus was in the Temple during the Feast of Dedication, also known as Hanukkah.
A commentary by a local pastor on Hanukkah. (His position is that there was no miracle of the oil. That the miracle was that God delivered the Jews from the Greeks. I don't agree. The miracle of the oil may be a little thing, but it is totally something God would do.)