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Thanksgiving has come and gone, then without skipping a single beat, it seems that Jewish holiday hanukkah celebration with vintage menorahChristmas has arrived. Now, we are being bombarded with TV commercials, online ads and emails letting us know that December 25 will be here soon. While there’s no denying Christmas is one of the most popular holidays celebrated in the United States, it’s important to remember that there are several other celebrations also taking place in December. In the next series, we will explore a handful of the holidays – starting with Hanukkah.

Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah, is an eight-day celebration of light takes place this year from December 2 to December 10. The story dates back thousands of years ago to 200 BC. At that time, the land of Israel was under the control of Antiochus III and the Syrian Greeks. During his reign, Antiochus allowed Jewish people to continue practicing their religion, but when his son, Antiochus IV assumed power, he outlawed Judaism and forced the Judeans to worship Greek gods.

In 168 BC, soldiers of Anthiochus III invaded Jerusaleum where they killed thousands of people and destroyed the city’s sacred Second Temple. Within the temple’s holy walls, soldiers slaughtered pigs and erected a statue of Zeus. After the desecration, a Jewish priest named Mattathias started the Maccabean Revolt. Immediately following his death in 166 BC, his son Judah took charge of the rebellion. Finally, after three long years of battle, the war came to an end, and the Judeans successfully drove the Syrians out of Israel.

Following the victory, Judeans wanted to light the menorah to rededicate the Second Temple but discovered that they only had enough oil to keep the candles burning for one day. They decided to take a chance and light the candles. Then a miracle happened. The candles continued to flicker for the following eight days, leaving them 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. After sundown each night, another candle is lit. The menorah is then displayed in the window to remind others of the original miracle.

A common question that many people ask is whether or not Chanukkah is a gift-giving holiday. You may be surprised to learn that there are no biblical or Talmudic roots connected to the idea of giving gifts during the Hanukkah season, but there is a timeworn tradition of instilling the value of charity. Many families have adopted the tradition of giving gelt (or money) to their children each weeknight of Hanukkah. Children then give a portion of their gift to charity. What an inspiring concept!

This year, let’s make an effort to remember all of the December celebrations, not just Christmas. We may not have the same beliefs or traditions as our neighbors, but it’s our differences that make our world all the more interesting.

Happy Holidays from Lions Pride!