Chanukah is the 8 day festival of lights. Though this holiday is traditionally Jewish, there are benefits for lighting the menorah.
Here are 8 reasons and ways (one for each night) to celebrate Chanukah this year.
Who doesn’t love a party? Chanukah gives us many reasons to be festive. The holiday commemorates events that occurred between the writing of the Old and New Testaments. That’s when a military miracle occurred as a small band of Jews defeated a huge oppressive army. Chanukah is all about the Heavenly Father’s devotion and protection to His people Israel. You can read about the true story of Hanukkah in the history books and in the apocryphal books of Maccabees.
The Hebrew word Chanukah literally means “dedication.” After the Jewish victory over the Greek army, the Hebrews discovered that the holy temple had been ransacked and desecrated. The Jewish priests cleaned up the holy place and prepared for Biblical worship. First though the temple needed to be dedicated. Like the original dedication of Solomon’s Temple, this setting apart was special. It was so awesome that remembering it became a yearly tradition. Chanukah is a special time to rededicate yourself to the Messiah as well. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Does your temple need to be cleansed?
Tradition tells us of a miracle that occurred during the first Hanukkah. The holy menorah only had enough oil to burn for one night. We are told that it lasted the entire eight nights of the first Chanukah celebration. A great miracle happened there. We can also experience miracles in our life. In fact there are miracles every where you look. Life is a series of miracles that happen one after another. Chanukah reminds us that miracles still exist. Ask. Believe. Receive a miracle for your life! The Almighty is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, over anything you could imagine.
By the time the Messiah walked the earth, Hanukkah had already become a traditional celebration by the Jewish people. In John chapter 10 we actually read that the Savior was there at the temple for Hanukkah. The Messiah did not teach against this holiday. The Messiah could have but he did not. This shows us that we can celebrate Chanukah today and remember the light of the world. Like the bright menorah, the Savior shined the light of heaven and expelled darkness. Arise and shine for the Light has come!
One way to celebrate Chanukah is to light a special menorah each of the eight nights. As the holiday continues the light of the menorah gets brighter and brighter. The Hanukkah menorah is a symbol of how light defeats the darkness . By lighting the menorah we remind ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren of the power of light. Matthew chapter 5 says, “let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” In the Bible the word “light” is a code word for obedience and good deeds. Chanukah is a special time to be kind to others, give gifts to the needy, and volunteer to help those less fortunate. It’s okay to give gifts to friends and loved ones too! “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11
The dreidel game is another fun activity that is associated with Chanukah. When you play the dreidel you spin a special toy top. Each side of the top is imprinted with a Hebrew letter. These letters are an acronym for “nes gadol hayah sham” or “a great miracle happened there.” This fun game reinforces the many messages of Chanukah. It’s customary to play dreidel with gold covered chocolate coins. When you play dreidel you might win all, you might lose all, and you might even have to put more in. Dreidel reminds us that even though life is a gamble, there is a greater message behind all the ups and downs. Life may spin you around but Someone loves you more than a child loves his favorite toy. The Heavenly Father loves you and wants to answer your prayers.
What’s a holiday without some great food? Chanukah food is normally fried and greasy. This recalls the miracle of the oil. Latkes are the favorite food of the feast of dedication. What’s a latke? Its a fried potato pancake or fritter that tastes yummy with sour cream or applesauce. Fried donuts are another Chanukah favorite. Of course you shouldn’t eat too many fried foods, so remember to share! The Bible tells of two miracles of oil and food. Check one out in 1 Kings 17 and the other in 2 Kings 4.
When lighting the menorah the first candle to be kindled is the servant candle. In Hebrew it is called the “shamash.” The shamash is used to light all the other candles. It’s interesting that on Chanukah menorahs the shamash is usually higher than the other candle sticks. The servant is exalted. This symbolizes the Messiah who humbled Himself, became a man, and served. He even served those who would reject Him. We should never forget that we are most like the Savior when we are a shamash servant. “The greatest among you will be your servant,” Matthew 23:11.
Chanukah is a great opportunity to share in the joys of the Biblical faith. With so many wonderful and spiritual themes of this holiday, it’s easy to see why Chanukah can be celebrated by all Bible believers.