We are halfway into the festival of Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah, or the Feast of Dedication. Our family has celebrated this feast for nearly twenty years and it is one of my favorite times of the year!
Here are eight reasons why I think Hanukkah ought to be acknowledged and celebrated:
- There is strong evidence that Yeshua (Jesus) probably celebrated it – in John 10:22-23, we read that it was during the feast of dedication (another name for Hanukkah), that Yeshua was in Jerusalem at the temple.
- Remembering the miracle that happened – legend has it that after the Maccabees and their army defeated the Greeks and reconquered Jerusalem, they cleansed the temple and only found one jar of oil that would only burn for one day. It would have been eight days before new oil could be purified and prepared for the temple lamps and yet miraculously, supposedly, the one day’s supply lasted for eight days. While it makes for a good story, it is worthwhile to note that this legend is not found in either book of the Maccabees. One would think that such an amazing miracle would surely have been recorded, especially considering all the other historical accounts that were expounded upon. So for our family, Hanukkah is not about one day’s supply of oil that lasted for eight days. We don’t deny that it could have happened but we have not been convinced that this legend is fact. But there is no denying that the historical accounts surrounding Hanukkah are miraculous. The way that a small army of Jews defeated the well-trained Greeks who far outnumbered them, was an incredible feat that shows how YHWH really was fighting for them.
- The lights – in a world where darkness, death and destruction are so prevalent, Hanukkah is a festival of lights. According to the legend, the Hanukkah menorah (Hanukkiah) has eight branches, one for each day of the feast, plus the shammas – the servant candle that lights all the rest. Traditionally, the shammas is lit every night and and one candle is added each night – one on the first night, two on the second night, three on the third night and so on. Since our family does not observe the supposed miracle of the oil, we often light all eight candles every night! Yeshua said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46) and “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Hanukkah is a wonderful time to study all the Scriptures about light!
- No Temple, No Messiah – in Luke 2:22-39, we read the account of how Yeshua’s parents took him up to the Temple “to do for him after the custom of the law” … “to present him to the Lord; (as it is written in the law of the Lord, every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (v. 22-24, 27) Since Yeshua was the perfect Lamb, spotless and unblemished (1Peter 1:19), He had to fulfill all of the law (Torah). If the Maccabees had not defeated the Greeks and rededicated the Temple to the service of YHWH, it would have been impossible for Yeshua’s parents to observe the commandments regarding His birth and dedication and thus He could not have fulfilled the Torah (Matthew 5:17).
- The inspiration found in the lives of those who lived during the time of the first Hanukkah – there are some amazing accounts of people who died for their faith and determination to not break YHWH’s laws. I hope to share more about one of these heroines in a few days.
- Latkes and doughnuts – traditionally, fried foods are eaten at Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle of the oil. And again, while the oil legend is not a focal point of our Hanukkah, we do enjoy the traditional foods 🙂 We also started a family tradition of going to eat at a Mexican restaurant on one of the nights, since much of their food is fried in oil! And hey – there’s nothing wrong with oil! In fact, there are many positive references to it throughout the Bible!
- Celebrating: righteousness conquers evil – it happens every time! It may not happen in the timing that we expect or desire, but the good guys will always win in the end. The story of the Maccabees is an inspiration in that they recognized the persecution of the Greeks was punishment for the sins of their nation. They repented and begged YHWH’s forgiveness. They removed the sin from their lives first and then they removed it from their nation. Through YHWH’s mercy, they experienced victory and deliverance. Hanukkah is a good time to remember our deliverance from, and victory over, sin through the sacrifice of the Messiah. This feast is a joyful time of celebration and commemoration of the way that the Heavenly Father takes care of His people. Yes, there may be persecution, pain and difficulties – but good will always triumph. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
- A good time to snuggle up and read Hanukkah stories 🙂 – many years ago, we found several books that we fell in love with and it is family tradition to read them each year during this time. Our two favorites are The Chanukkah Guest and Latkes And Applesauce: A Hanukkah Story. My younger siblings and I have enjoyed these timeless stories since I can barely remember.
Does your family celebrate Hanukkah? If so, what are some of your favorite things about this feast?