By Larry Peterson
This year, Sunday, December 2nd, hosts two great religious events. One is the beginning of the 2018 Advent Season. The other is the beginning of the great Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, which begins at sundown on the same day. Since it is important for us Catholic/Christians to be aware of our Jewish heritage, (ie; the entire Holy Family was Jewish as were their relatives and friends) here are some facts about Hanukkah.
In our Catholic Bible the Old Testament, 1 Maccabees 4:59, reads; “Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days from the 25th day of the month of Chislev.”
The connection to the New Testament is in John 10: 22-35. This begins with the Feast of Dedication aka the Festival of Lights which is Hanukkah and Jesus is celebrating it by saying, “…and scripture cannot be set aside…”
Interestingly, Hanukkah, which took place in 165 BC, is the only Jewish holiday not included in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible). There are several theories as to why this is. Two of them are; since it was put together in the first century it was too close to the actual occurrence to write about it; or, they did not want to cause any grief with their Roman rulers. Ironically, the story appears only in the Catholic Bible as Maccabees is not in the King James version.
Here are some other Hanukkah facts:
- Oily foods are a tradition: Potato pancakes and jelly donuts are important because they represent the oil that burned for eight days
- Cheese is a lesser-known Hanukkah tradition. This is about the story from the Book of Judith, a beautiful Jewish widow, who seduces the Assyrian general, fills him with cheeses and wine, and waits until he passes out. Then she beheads him empowering the Jewish army to conquer the Assyrians, saving
- Hanukkah does fall on the same date every year; that is if you use the Hebrew calendar. It falls on the 25th day of the month of Kislev (Chislev). Unfortunately, the Hebrew calendar does not coincide with the Gregorian calendar so Hanukkah can fall anywhere from late November to late December. Last year it began on December 12. In 2013 it began on Thanksgiving day.
- Hanukkah can be spelled several different ways; Hanukah, Chanukah, Chanuka, and Chanucah.
- Hanukkah is a major Jewish holiday because of Christmas. Up until the last part of the nineteenth century, Hanukkah was a minor holiday. It was nothing on the scale of Passover or Rosh Hashanah. There were two reasons it grew in popularity, and those reasons came from the incredibly popular Christmas season. One reason was to deflect attention away from the Christmas spirit, and the other was so the Jewish children had something to celebrate so they would not become jealous of their Christian friends.
- Giving children coins during Hanukkah is an old tradition. It originally was the only gift children would receive. The custom came from Eastern Europe where teachers were given a bit of money as a “Thank you” for their hard work. In the 1920s it evolved in America into the chocolate :gelt.” Lofts Candy Corp began producing the chocolate gold coins and their popularity quickly grew. They were called “gelt” by the Jewish people and that custom is still very popular.
- Latkes are a popular Eastern European food which is a staple of the Jewish Holiday. The interesting thing about Latkes is that they are not popular in Israel. In Israel, you will find plenty of jelly-donuts. Latkes (similar to potato pancakes) are cooked in animal fat, which was never in abundance in Israel. But in Eastern Europe it is used all of the time
- Lastly, this year Hanukkah will end at sundown on December 10. Advent ends on Christmas Eve.
©Larry Peterson 2018