Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukah, began at sundown on December 8th and will end at sunset on the eighth day. Hanukkah is not the most crucial celebration the Jewish People have, but it is the one that happens in December.
This year, the Ukrainian and Israeli people are fighting for their homeland. Hanukkah celebrates the Jewish people winning the war against the Syrians, as they wanted their land and the freedom of religion.
Many years ago, in the time of B.C., the Jewish people lived in peace, and their Holy Temple was in their capital city of Jerusalem. The army of Syria came and conquered Judea and defiled the Holy Temple. The Syrian king had idols placed in the temple and ordered all the Jews to pray to his gods or die. Some people did as the king ordered, but many Jews refused and, led by a priest named Mattathias, went to live in the caves of the surrounding mountains.
Mattathias led the men in battles with the heavily armor-protected Syrian army. When Mattathias became too old to lead, he chose his son Judah Maccabee, nicknamed The Hammer. After many years of fighting, the Jews won and drove the Syrians out of their land.
The people cleaned the temple and destroyed the false gods. Then, they sought oil to light the grand menorah. They found enough to burn it for one day. A miracle happened; the oil lasted eight days, giving them enough time to make more.
Today's menorah has a nine-branch candelabrum. Eight candles are for the eight days the oil lasted. The ninth candle is called the "servant" candle. It is used to light the other candles, one candle each day. The celebration is called the "Feast of Lights."
The family plays a dreidel game to remember the time of the Syrians. The people were not allowed to teach the boys to read. So the teacher (rabbi) would put different words on the sides of the dreidel. If a Syrian soldier asked the teacher what he was doing, he answered, "We are just playing a game to entertain the boys while the parents work."
Today, there are anti-Semitic people in our country and the world. The people who are prejudiced against Jews are not Christians. The Christian faith is one of love and peace. The Christian faith would not exist if the Hebrew people had not become God's people. He had many groups from which He could choose. There were the Syrians, Chaldeans, Egyptians, etc. Yet God chose a small, unimportant group of slaves to be His. Even though they were imperfect, He stuck by them and chose an unknown, poor Hebrew girl to be the mother of His Son. While Jesus walked upon this earth, He was Jewish and followed the Hebrew religion when it did not conflict with his Father's will. The Christian faith has its origins in the Jewish people.
May this time of Hanukkah be a blessing to all who celebrate the miracle of God who made one bit of oil last eight days.
Happy Chanukah to all the Jewish people, and may you have peace.