The Jewish festival of lights, known as Hanukkah, begins this evening at sundown and lasts for 8 days. I’ll share a bit more about what Hanukkah is all about in the next few days, but today I want to focus on the celebratory nature of our Jewish friends!
I have often mentioned the Jews’ zest for life and their ability to go on enjoying life regardless of what hand they are dealt. For example, even during times of exile and the Holocaust, Jews managed to find ways to sing, dance and find joy amidst the chaos. I find it intriguing and admirable.
Hanukkah is one of the most celebratory occasions on the Jewish calendar, and for 8 days they make the most of it! Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple after it was desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BC. Because the Temple was the center of Jewish life, you can imagine the joy of regaining their holy place of worship. Furthermore, Jesus Himself celebrated Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication) with His family, and later asserted His deity during that special celebration (John 10:22). Thus, though it is not one of the 7 major feasts of Israel, we know it was an actual event during Jesus’ day, and that He found it important enough to observe.
So, being the fun-loving people they are, Jews celebrate big! They gather together, light the menorah, cook special foods, eat jelly donuts, sing, dance and make merry! I as blessed to be in Jerusalem during Hanukkah 2015, and made a special trip to the Old City just to catch the celebration there. It was very festive as lights danced on the city walls, festive music blared, a huge menorah was lit, and young people danced the night away!
Jews in the diaspora (living outside of Israel) celebrate as well. A few years ago Daley Plaza in Chicago was the scene of a well-planned flash mob celebrating Hanukkah in a unique way. Enjoy!
PS: Stay tuned…more fun facts about Hanukkah to come in days ahead!