What is Hanukkah?
Oh, Hanukkah! Oh, Hanukkah! The magical time of the year we all come together around the menorah, eat chocolate coins, and get presents for 8 days because it’s basically Jewish Christmas! Right? Uh, NO. Hanukkah is an eight-day wintertime celebration, also known as “The Festival of Lights,” that commemorates the rededication of the holy temple of Jerusalem in the second century BC. The Hebrew word Hanukkah actually means “dedication,” and is spelled “C-H-A”….no….”H-A-N”..no….”C-H-A-N-N”… Well, there are a few different ways to spell Hanukkah, but only one way to say it, and it’s not “tcha-new-kuh.” So what does Hanukkah commemorate? Well, that’s an epic story of battle and victory and good overcoming evil, but this is a short video, so we’ll give you the skinny.
So in the second century BC, the Syrian-Greeks (the bad guys) ruled the Holy Land under King Antiochus (the bad guys’ leader) who outlawed Biblical commandments, tried to enforce Greek pagan culture, and was even sacrificing pigs on the altar! He would torture and kill anyone who didn’t do what he said.
Enter the Maccabees. A Jewish priest Mattityahu and his 5 sons (the good guys) led a revolt against the evil king. Judah, one of the 5 sons, led the Maccabean rebellion to victory over the bad guys, and became known as “Judah the Hammer.” What an awesome nickname! In fact, the Hebrew word Maccabee means “hammer”. This guy must have been pretty cool. Judah had the temple cleansed and rededicated with a new altar and new temple vessels. This is an eight-day process.
You have probably been told that the reason that Hannukah is 8 days because of a legend that says there was only enough sacred oil to burn for one day, but it burned for all eight days! This is just a legend. The real reason it is celebrated for 8 days is because of the biblical mandate for cleansing the temple.
The observance of Hanukkah begins in the Hebrew month of Kislev, on the 25th day. This is a little different from our Gregorian calendar. The Hebrew calendar is based on the sighting of the new moon, so the dates vary. But it typically falls in the month of December. So it’s easy to see why Christmas sometimes gets thrown into the mix.
So, When Does Hanukkah Begin?
Hanukkah will begin this year at sundown on December 14th until Sunday, December 22nd. How do we celebrate Hanukkah you might ask? While other ministries will mention dreidels and 9 branch menorahs, we do not. We simply spend time with family and read the book of Maccabees as a remembrance of the 8-day miracle a few brave men risked their lives for to protect the Temple of Yehovah.
Should We Celebrate Hanukkah?
Are we as believers commanded to celebrate Hanukkah? No. So do we have to celebrate Hanukkah? No. Should we celebrate Hanukkah? Short answer. Yes.
It’s true that Hanukkah is considered a minor holiday in Israel. There is nothing in scripture that says we have to observe it. However, there is also nothing in scripture that says we can’t or shouldn’t. Scripture does make mention of the feast of dedication in the gospel of John, and we know Yeshua went to Jerusalem to observe it. Think of it like one of our holidays here in America. Thanksgiving. There is no scriptural reason to celebrate Thanksgiving, but we do it in remembrance of a historic day here in America. We give thanks to the Creator for his many blessing on our lives.
Likewise, we should observe Hanukkah to cleanse and rededicate ourselves wholly to Him. It is a time of dedication and celebration. We thank the father for victory over the evils of this world and the opportunity and responsibility he gives us to shine a light to those in the darkness.
For a more in-depth look at the story of Hanukkah, be sure to check out Michael Rood’s video “Hanukkah: The Lion of Judah and the Sword of Greece” and watch more Rood Crew Reviews on the celebration of Hanukkah. Shalom and Happy Hanukkah!