Celebrating Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights

celebrating-hanukah-in-new-zealand

Childhood innocence renewed my love of life when my son was young. Witnessing his delight in the world, his unguarded affection, his raw being alive, made me feel more alive.

Now that he’s a young teen, innocence has been replaced with a growing skepticism of people, a lagging trust in good intentions.

Though I’ve tried to protect him from man’s atrocities (gender intended!), he now studies current events at high school and reads the news online. I am no longer a filter of the world’s woes.

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights

Humans for millennia have created rituals to help us renew faith in the world, in ourselves, and in our families.

In our society, these are the celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, which fell on December 24 this year.

Of course, they were adopted from the northern hemisphere, when days are shortest at the end of December and light and sun are yearned for after a long winter.

But we in the south carry on with the intention to create time to rest, to be with family, to be in nature, to renew hope.

Celebrating Hanukkah in New Zealand

Most New Zealanders aren’t familiar with Hanukkah, so I’d like to share what I’ve learned about this ritual that kindles hope.

Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabean victory over the Roman attempt to destroy the Jewish Temple, from 169 to 166 BCE.

Hanukkah, or the Miracle of Light, refers to how the sacred temple oil, recovered from the remains of the battle, provided light for 8 nights, when it should only have lasted for one. Jewish families light a menorah of 8 candles, one each night, to remember how light emerged from the darkest time.

In some ways we are in very dark times now. We feel it. Our teens feel it.

Celebrating Hanukkah ties us to Jews around the world, highlights the Jewish dedication to our religion and culture, and also offers a spiritual lesson.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow teaches that the military conflict over the Temple can be re-interpreted today as a spiritual one.

“Hanukkah is the moment when light is born from darkness, hope from despair. We understand that the real conflict is . . . between apathy and hope, between a blind surrendering to darkness and an acting to light up new paths. By acknowledging the season of darkness, we know it is time to light the candles, to sow a seed of light that can sprout and spring forth later in the year.”

This is such a beautiful lesson we can teach to our children.

For more information on celebrating Hanukkah in New Zealand check out the Wellington Jewish, or Jewish Federation community groups on Facebook.

Marta Fisch

Marta Fisch is a family and individual therapist, supervisor, and trainer. Her experience includes the areas of step-families, parenting skills, grief and trauma work, couples counselling, therapy for depression and anxiety, and child-parent attachment issues.

Marta loves playing with her son, dancing, and riding her bike to work. She is involved in community sustainability initiatives, which brings her hope and a sense of belonging. She grew up in California and has lived in New Zealand / Aotearoa for 20 years. You can find out more on her website

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