Hanukkah, the 8-day Jewish Festival of Lights, begins at sundown December 22 this year (2019). However, because it coincides with Christmas this year, I’ll share a series of posts about Hanukkah before turning our sights toward Christmas. Let’s begin by focusing on the celebratory nature of the Jewish people.
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 was blessed to be in Jerusalem during Hanukkah a few years ago, 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!