Should Christians Celebrate Hanukkah?
This will be my first year celebrating Hanukkah so I wanted to bring in an expert to tell us more about it. I’m so excited and grateful to have my friend Diane from Worth Beyond Rubies guest blogging today! You’re going to love what she has to say…
Should Christians Celebrate Hanukkah?
Whenever I tell someone I am a Messianic Jew, there is usually a litany of questions I get asked. I love these questions because I love to see people are truly interested! One of questions I tend to get asked is “Should Christians celebrate Hanukkah?”
My answer is always the same: “Do you want to?”
Let’s start with the question, why do Messianic Jews and some Christians celebrate Hanukkah?
Well, for one, Jesus celebrated it. John 10:22-23, says,
“Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the Temple, in Solomon’s porch”
The Feast of Dedication, also known as the Festival of Lights, is Hanukkah. It is an eight-day festival that begins on the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar.
Many people think Hanukkah is the “Jewish Christmas,” but it is not at all. In fact, it pre-dates Christmas.
In the second century BC, Antiochus IV came into power in the region and oppressed the Jewish people. He desecrated the Temple, appointed his own priests, killed anyone who opposed him, and had pigs, an unclean animal by the Law of God, sacrificed in the Temple on the altar.
Then we have the good guys: the Maccabees led by Judah Maccabee. They led a rebellion (known as the Maccabean Revolt) against Antiochus and won! However, the Temple had already been desecrated and defiled by Antiochus and his men.
So, our heroes, the Maccabees, cleansed the Temple according to the instructions of the Torah and rededicated it to the Lord. And many of us know the story of how they only had enough oil in the Temple for one day but miraculously it burned for eight.
Many people think that this is why the holiday is eight days long, but that is not the reason at all. It is actually eight days because of the instructions in Torah for the dedication of the Temple in Leviticus.
In fact, the word Hanukkah actually means “dedication.”
So, it is known as the Feast of Dedication because it commemorates the rebuilding and restoration of the Temple.
Ultimately, Hanukkah is a celebration of good overcoming evil!
Hanukkah has some fun and amazing traditions! After all, what child doesn’t love getting gifts for eight days?
The story of the Maccabean revolt is read during Hanukkah and gifts are exchanged!
But one of my favorite parts of Hanukkah is…
The Hanukkah Menorah
The Hanukkah menorah is different from the other menorahs in Judaism. It is a nine branched candlestick containing eight candles and then a ninth in the center, typically standing higher than the others. This candle is known as the Shamash. The word “shamash” means servant or helper and it is the candle used to light the other candles.
The first night, one candle is lit. Then, with each subsequent night another candle is added so that by the eighth night all candles are lit.
Jesus said, in Matthew 20:26,
“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant”
The shamash, the servant candle, is lifted higher than the others. What a wonderful illustration of Jesus’ teaching on servant leadership.
But the menorah is also symbolic of Jesus Himself.
Jesus is the light of the world. Isaiah 49:5-6 says,
And now the Lord says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am[a] honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength— he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
John 8:12 says,
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
So, the menorah is symbolic of the Messiah.
But it can also be representative of our witness.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
The Menorah is typically placed on or near a window in the home so those outside can see it. Jesus told us to let our light shine before others!
The dreidel is a 4-sided top with the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hey and shin written, one on each side. These letters are are acronym for nes gadol hayah sham, which means “a great miracle happened there.”
The game is played for little pieces of coin-shaped chocolates known as “gelt.”
It reminds me of how the Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ garments at the place where our salvation was won! A great miracle happened there! Death and the grave were defeated and salvation won!
Oh, I love latkes!
Hanukkah, like most Jewish holidays, comes with amazing food!
Latke is Yiddish for these yummy potato pancakes!
These are cooked in oil, lots of oil, and it is believed to be symbolic of the oil that burned for the eight days in the Temple.
Whatever the symbolism, they are yummy!
For the Christian, it can be a reminder of the foolish virgins who let their oil run out. You have to stand and watch the latkes in the oil to avoid them burning or a fire starting and also to see when more oil needs to be added because they soak up oil like crazy! To me it means to always be watching and waiting for Jesus’ return! Do not let your oil run out!
Challah Bread – What Is Challah?
Challah is a delicious bread (makes awesome French toast by the way!) that is braided and made from eggs. You will typically find challah in the home for Shabbat (Sabbath) and holidays, except for Passover.
Challah means ‘portion’ and, after the destruction of the Temple, in Jewish bakeries and in observant homes they will tear a tiny lump of risen dough and burn it in the oven or fire while saying a blessing, to commemorate the command to leave a portion for the priests.
These are some of my favorite parts of the holiday!
So, Should Christians Celebrate Hanukkah?
Do we have to? No. It is a minor holiday without a Biblical command to observe it.
But we can look at it sort of like the American holiday, Thanksgiving. There is no command to observe it, but we do it to [observe a time to give thanks].
It is a day we can remember the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple and focus on cleansing and rededicating ourselves to the Lord. Our bodies are a living Temple where the Holy Spirit resides.
It is a day we can remember ‘a great miracle happened there,’ and the great miracles and blessings the Lord works in our lives.
It is also a time we can remember and observe the triumph of good over evil and how God defeats the enemy in our lives!
And it is a time when we, like the menorah, can be the light to those living in the dark. How we can set our light where the world can see it and shine the light of Jesus to all!
Yes, I believe Christians should celebrate Hanukkah!
Aside from the symbolism and how it paints so many pictures of Jesus and our relationship with Him, it is just plain fun! ⭐️
Diane is a wife and mom, a Jewish believer in Yeshua (Jesus) and founder of Worth Beyond Rubies, a ministry to encourage women and teach the Jewish roots of the faith. She lives in Northwestern Connecticut and when she is not blogging, you will find her spending time with her family…or up in her craft room designing custom tumblers, making reading pillows or quilting! Diane is also an avid amateur genealogist and loves researching her rich family history!
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Hey sis! I’m Imani, the Jesus-loving pastor’s wife & toddler mom who is writing here to help you “be a blessing” in your day-to-day life. Also, I’m probably dancing to Michael Jackson right now.