Hanukkah 2012: What Every Christian Should Know About the Jewish Holiday


Fox News believes that Christians worry about a "war on Christmas," but the fact is that cultures around the world have always celebrated in the wintertime. This holiday season, why not resolve to experience the mystery of God that crosses religious borders, and be inspired by the plurality and diversity of deeply faithful, spiritual people. If you join me in doing this, here is the information you need to celebrate Hanukkah.

Saturday night found the world's Jews enjoying community as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, began. Hanukkah commemorates a miracle that occurred in Jerusalem during the Maccabean revolt in the second century BCE. The Syrians occupied Jerusalem and began suppressing Jewish customs. During the conflict, the temple's menorah, or ritual lamp, was running out of oil.

Although it only had fuel enough for one night, the lamp burned brightly for eight nights until help could arrive.

Although this story has been a powerful symbol of Jewish identity and resilience over 22 centuries of oppression, Hanukkah was not a particularly important holiday until modern times. Jews do not abstain from work and children do not normally get out of school. It has always been a popular part of Jewish identity, and the symbolic menorah is usually lit in a public place to share the miracle with the world.

A typical modern Hanukkah evening for an American family will include the lighting of a candle on the menorah, a unique 9-armed candleabra. Songs and psalms will be sung, simple gifts like toy dreidels or chocolate coins will be given to children, and oily foods like potato pancakes and donuts will be eaten. If you'd like to try a spin at dreidel, check out these online rules.

A good time is had by all.