What is Hanukkah, besides lighting the Menorah for eight nights, before or after Christmas, depending on the year? (In 2013, November 27- December 5). Is Hanukkah merely a stand-in Jewish holiday to coincide with Christmas so that Jewish kids don’t get left out? Hanukkah is an important time for Jews everywhere and it’s a great opportunity to celebrate with your children. Christmas and Hanukkah both occur at the Winter Solstice, a time when people in the Northern Hemisphere are yearning for light and warmth from longer days for their homes and their crops. Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabean victory over the Roman-sponsored attempt to destroy the Jewish Temple, from 169 to 166 BCE. The miracle of light refers to how the sacred temple oil, recovered from the remains of the battle, provided light for eight nights, when it would have only been expected to last for one.
We celebrate Hanukkah in lots of ways in our house. I played up the battle scene to intrigue my son in the holiday, which we acted out. He gets to light the colourful glass menorah my father gave us. We eat potato latkes, or pancakes, a tradition which came from our European ancestors. And of course there are the gifts, one for each night.
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 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.”
A beautiful lesson to teach our children.