In the Hebrew Hanukkah means, “to dedicate.” Dedication. The Feast of Dedication was once also called the Feast of the Maccabees, was an eight day winter festival celebrated by the Jews in the month of December sometimes late November according to Jewish calendar. Feast of Dedication is also known as Festival of Lights.
It celebrates two miracles – a great Jewish military victory and a miraculous supply of oil for the Temple. In 167-160 BC in Judea, a group of Jewish freedom fighters rose up, defied the oppressive pagan regime, and overthrew the Seleucids. The temple in Jerusalem was re-dedicated to God, ever since then, the Feast of Dedication has been celebrated to commemorate this meaningful event in Jewish history.
According to rabbinic tradition when the Maccabees cleansed the temple and re-dedicated it when it came to relight the menorah, the multi branched lamp stand, they searched the Temple but miraculously only one small jar of oil burned for eight days until a new supply of oil could be brought. The observance of Hanukkah features the lighting of a special Hanukkah menorah with eight candles plus a helper candle adding a new candle each night. You light the helper candle (center) first each night, and then you light each candle beginning from right to left. By the end of eight days all nine candles will be lit. A reminder of the miracle that God is light, and Jesus, the promised Messiah is the light of the world. (John 8:12).
Hanukkah is celebrated each year with the lighting of the menorah, eating traditional foods fried in oil, songs, prayers, games and gifts.
In Jesus’ time Jews celebrated Hanukkah. In John 10:22-23, “At the time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon (Solomon’s porch). There the Jews questioned Him and when Jesus told them about His Oneness with God the Father, they picked up stones to stone Him and sought to arrest Him but He escaped from their hands. (verse 39).
So, Jesus did celebrate Hanukkah with the Jewish people of His time. If you’re a follower of Jesus you can also celebrate Hanukkah by lighting a candle on the menorah at sundown each night… Happy Hanukkah!
My good friend Bonnie Rosenthal Pearson wrote a delightful book about Hanukkah, Jonathan’s Hanukkah, illustrated by my other good friend, Janis Lee Colon. It’s the perfect holiday gift for your favorite 4 to 10 year old. Make sure you indicate the address where to ship the book. If ordering thru PayPal use BonPearson@comcast.net email. $7.00 dollars S&H included.