You don't have to be Jewish to celebrate Hanukkah. There is much in the feast which tells us of Yeshua (Jesus), and as you go through it, you will see certain parallelisms. Because the Biblical Feasts are dated from the lunar calendar, this year in 2008, Hanukkah's first night of the 8 nights, starts on Sunday, December 21. (The Biblical calendar expresses it as the 25th day of the month Kislev). We will give a brief summary first, and then the practical tips will be listed below that.
Brief History: Hanukkah's other names are the Festival of Lights or the Feast of Dedication. This feast commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the wicked Greek King Antiochus and the Hellenistic Syrians, who were trying to force Jews to bow down to idols, and to stop all Jewish rituals. In 168BCE they seized the Jewish temple, and used it for worshiping Zeus. Some Jews were so full of fear that they did not retaliate; but a small yet tough Jewish family called the Maccabees, led by the priestly Hasmoneans, revolted at Modi'in, and stood up for righteousness, thereby saving the Jewish race. One of them called Mattathius, rose up and slew a fellow Jew who had weakened by offering to comply to pagan worship, thereby betraying the Jews. Mattathius also killed the Greek officer who had demanded Jews worship idols and eat pig, both of which are forbidden in the Torah. (If he had not done this, the Jews would have been wiped out, and our Jewish Messiah Yeshua would never have been born to save us.) After this brave encounter, they found much destruction in the temple, so in 165BCE they cleaned it up and rededicated the ransacked temple that Antiochus had used to put a non-“kosher” pig on the altar. The idea of lighting the candles comes from the fact that a real miracle happened after the Maccabees found only one flask of oil left to light the damaged temple “m'norrah”, and it actually stayed lit for 8 days amidst great celebrations!
Do try to keep your commemoration of the event separate from Christmas. That is easy to do when the dates do not collide, but this year they DO! Here are some guidelines as to how you can celebrate Hanukkah nightly right in your home.
1) Buy or make a “hanukkiah” (haw–noo–KEE-yah). That's a 9 sticked candelabra. Buy enough candles for lighting fresh ones each of the 8 nights = 72. They don't have to be big ones – the little ones are available at Jewish stores, and sometimes at supermarkets. You can buy a “hanukkiah” from a Jewish store on-line [or from etsy]. Sometimes you can find them in second-hand stores too, or make your own!.
2) At nightfall, someone (even a child) lights the first candle – and light the end candle first. You can look up the Hanukkah prayers to read. After this, put out your match and use the end candle, the “shamash” (sha-MASH) , the “servant candle” to light the first candle. (Sometimes it's on the extreme right and sometimes it stands in the centre by itself. Put the “shamash” back into its place. And then stop - don't blow out either candle!) That's all you light the first night. The second night, you add one more, and then the third night, the third one as well, till the last night when ALL the candles are lit – still by the “shamash” which lights all the rest throughout the week – not the SAME candle, as it is fresh each night. To us as Christians, we see the parallelism in our Messiah Who took upon Himself to be a servant to us all, Who “lights” up our lives!
3) Recite the “hallel” - Ps. 11-118.
4) Sing a Hannukah song. Here is one that has a recording, and Hebrew and English words written out below. Or sing any worship song you know that has to do with LIGHT or DEDICATION or STANDING strong. Merla Watson has written several songs for Christians to sing at Hanukkah - here's one called “Father of Lights”. Look it up on our web site: www.mervandmerla.co It's listed under “New Messianic Songs” in a book with many feast songs in it.
5) Cook the traditional food (Google this = Hannukah traditional food or recipes), or order from a Jewish delicatessen or supermarket grocery store ahead of time. First the “latkes” (LAT-kuz) = shredded potato pancakes served with homemade apple sauce, and “suvgani'ot” (soov-ga-nee-OHT) = jelly filled donuts. Recipes of both can be found on the Internet. Just Google it. Lots of folks have a “latke” making party beforehand or as even part of their party the same night.
6) Traditionally, small gifts are exchanged during this time as well.
7) Find a small “dreidel” (special spinning top) at a Jewish store, or order one on-line. It has a big Hebrew letter on each side of its square sides, which is an acronym of 4 Hebrew alphabet letters standing for: “A big miracle happened there!” During the time of persecution in ancient history, while the Jews were really studying Torah, if they heard the Greek soldiers at the door, they quickly snatched their “dreidels” from their pockets, pretending to be playing with them, and not reading Torah. There are “dreidel” games and other Hanukkah games on the Internet.
8) Appoint someone to read the story of Hannukah.
9) If you are part of a community, you could have the festivities at a different home each night.
10) Try to involve kids as much as possible – in the lighting of the “Hannukiah”, in baking cookies, in helping with the cooking or baking, in singing along with the songs, and in playing games with the “dreidel”.
And by the way, Hanukkah is not pronounced "han" as in our word "hand" but you pronounce it "haw" as in "HOLLow". So it would sound "HAW=noo-kaw". Even better if you can do a guttural sound for the first "H" - like the German "iCH" or the Scottish "LOCH Lomond". THERE! You HAVE it! You can find other information about Hanukkah on our web site under the BLOG button or under the FEASTS button.
HAPPY HANUKKAH - for a whole week!