antiochus III, antiochus IV, candles, celebration, chanukah, customs, december, gift giving, greek gods, hanukkah, history, holidays, israel, judaism, judeans, light, lions pride, menorah, miracle, olive oil, season, second temple, traditions, wisconsin
This time of the year, it seems the only topic we hear about is Christmas. Although it is one of the most popular December holidays here in Wisconsin, it is important to remember that there are other holidays happening simultaneously around the country and the world. For the remainder of the month, we will explore all of these holidays beginning with Hanukkah.
Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is an eight-day celebration of light that begins this year on December 17th. The story dates back to 200 BC; the land of Israel was under the control of Antiochus III and the Syrian Greeks. At that time, Antiochus allowed Jewish people to continue practicing their religion. When his son, Antiochus IV assumed power, he outlawed Judaism and forced the Judeans to worship Greek gods.
A rebellion, led by Jewish priest Mattathias, broke out after soldier desecrated the city’s Holy Temple and built a statue of Zeus. Mattathias died in 166 BC, and his son Judah took charge. Finally in 165 BC, after three years of battle, the war came to an end; and the Judeans were able to drive the Syrians out of Israel.
To rededicate the Second Temple, they wanted to light the menorah, but soon found that they only had enough olive oil to keep the candles burning for one day. They decided to light the candles and; then a miracle happened. The candles continued to flicker for eight days, leaving the Judeans plenty of time to find a fresh supply of oil. Jewish sages then proclaimed an annual eight-day festival.
Today, the Hanukkah celebration is centered on the lighting of the menorah. Each night of the celebration, another candle is lit after sundown. The menorah is then displayed in the window to remind others of the past miracle.
People often wonder whether or not, Chanukah is a gift-giving holiday. Surprisingly, there are no biblical or Talmudic roots connected to the idea of gift giving. However, there is a timeworn tradition to give children the gifts of gelt, also known as money, to teach them the value of charity in addition to keeping the environment festive and happy. Many families have adopted the tradition for every weeknight of Hanukkah.
This holiday season, don’t forget to remember all of the December holidays, not just the ones celebrated in your family. Happy holidays from all of us at Lions Pride!