Okay students...are you ready for today's lesson on Judaism? Great! We will be discussing the fun, fun holiday called Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights. So sit right down and put on your best reading eyes and see this ancient festival through the eyes of a seminary student. Today we celebrated Hanukkah with all the classes in our building, it was fun to watch them learn something new and have fun while doing so!
Hanukkah has been celebrated for over 2,200 years, since 164 BCE. It is not a part of any scripture, but has been documented in ancient writings of scholars. It is not a religious holiday, but one of celebration.
King Antiochus was the King of Syria. He was horrible to the Jews and destroyed their temple and kept them in slavery. A brave man named Judas Maccabee raised up and led the Jews in an uprising where they gained their freedom. As they came back to their homes, they found that the temple had been terribly damaged. The Jews knew that they could clean the temple and rededicate it. They were so sad, the beautiful candleabra in the temple was still there, but there was only enough oil for one day. The women of the temple decided to light the lamp and hope that they could procur more oil for it. For eight days the lamp stayed lit, each day getting brighter and brighter until finally, oil was found. At the end of the eight days, the temple was rededicated. This was a huge miracle based on the faith of the Jews; and that is what Hanukkah stands for, "A great miracle happened here".
Today Hanukkah is celebrated all over the world by Jews and Christians alike. Every year the actual start is a different date, based on the Hebrew calendar. This year it begins on Sunday, Dec. 21st. On that night people will make yummy dinners of brisket or chicken, potato latkes, applesauce, vegetables and jelly doughnuts (sufganyiot). (They celebrate OIL, sorry Andrea...)
Candles will be lit and set in windows for the world to see. Gifts will be given to remember the gift of light from God. Driedels will be played with. (This is interesting. During this time it was illegal to practice their religion and so men would get together to study doctrine and would pretend to play the dreidel game to throw the King's soldiers off while they talked of God and the scriptures!) The candles that are lit represent certain things: