Hanukkah begins at sundown December 22nd and is celebrated until nightfall December 30th, this year.
It is a celebration of family, freedom and light. Hanukkah means “dedication.” Historically, the origin of Hanukkah began in the year 168 BCE when Antiochus Epiphanes IV attempted to squash Judaism. The Maccabean Revolt ensued in which the Jewish rebel Judas Maccabeus defeated Antiochus Epiphanes IV. The Jews rededicated the Temple after the Greek occupation of that holy place. A small quantity of oil miraculously kept the Temple menorah lit for eight days.
Hanukkah is primarily celebrated on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev (late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar). It is entirely coincidental that it falls near Christmas.
For Hanukkah, families gather to light the menorah, pray and sing hymns, exchange gifts, and enjoy latkes and jam-filled donuts, just to name a few activities.
Tomorrow night, on the river front in my town a menorah will be lit a few feet from the Christmas tree. As a community, we will all gather to offer our prayers for peace. In this late December, it will promise to be a cold, dark winter night; however, the lights from the menorah will shine forth and unite with the glow from the Christmas tree lights just a few feet from it. As God’s people, we will join our voices together to ask for peace, to ask for justice, and to ask God to protect us as we turn our faces toward the future.
This can be a cold, dark world, filled with cruelty and hatred. It can also be a beautiful world filled with light. It is up to us all to be that light, to shine bright like the candles in the darkness.
May our hearts be filled with the light of God’s love.