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Did Jesus Celebrate Hanukkah? And 9 Other Most Popular Holiday Questions

This list, taken from one of web’s leading search engines, reflects the 10 most asked questions related to Hanukkah. I take full responsibility for the answers and look forward to you adding your own.
1. When does Hanukkah begin? Hanukkah began on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which corresponds this year to the evening of December 1st. The Jewish calendar day begins at sundown.
2. Why is Hanukkah eight days long? Hanukkah lasts 8 days for two reasons, one well-known, and the other much less so. According the better known story, the holiday last 8 days in honor of the period of time during which an amount of oil which should have lasted only one day, continued to burn in the newly re dedicated Jerusalem Temple’s menorah (sanctuary candleabrum).
According to a lesser known account in the Book of Maccabees (part of the Apocrypha — writings which are part of the biblical canon for Catholics, but not for Jews and Protestants), when the Temple was taken back by the Jews, they celebrated the eight day holiday of Sukkot/Shemini Atzeret (Tabernacles), which they had not been able to observe when Pagans controlled the institution. There is a good possibility that was the basis for declaring the new holiday of Hanukkah as an 8 day festival.
3. What is the story of Hanukkah? The story of Hanukkah is that of a four-year war in the land of Israel, which lasted from 167 bce – 163 bce. Some accounts portray a battle between oppressed Jews and imperialist Selucids who became increasingly harsh with those living under their rule.
Other accounts tell of what was essentially a civil war between those Jews who collaborated with the Selucids and those who did not. Among other issues was the increasing assimilationism which the former group saw the latter group as supporting and even imposing. The holiday celebrates the re-taking of the Jerusalem Temple and the re-establishment of it’s service, I’m accord with biblical teaching.
4. What is the miracle of Hanukkah? The classic miracle story of Hanukkah is that of the oil which lasted longer than it should have — eight days instead of one. Another possibility is that the miracle was that people dared to light that tiny bit of oil and trust that somehow things would work out.
Perhaps the enduring miracle which Hanukkah celebrates is that there is always more light than we first imagine and that the fuel to create it is really there when look hard enough and dare to trust its power.
5. Are Hanukkah and Chanukah the same? Hanukkah, Chanukah and all of the other alternative spellings refer to the same holiday. The variations are a function of spelling a Hebrew word, especially one with sounds which are not part of the English language, with another alphabet.
6. Did Jesus celebrate Hanukkah? Jesus, in all likelihood did observe Hanukkah. Without entering into a debate about the historical Jesus, we can assume that virtually all Jews living in the first century of the Common Era would have celebrated Hanukkah. How they would have observed the day is more open to question, and they did know about dreidls (the spinning top associated with the holiday) or latkes (potato pancakes), both of which are Yiddish words!
7. Why do people play with a dreidel on Hanukkah? The origins of the dreidel and the tradition of playing with it on Hanukkah are shrouded in mystery. But it’s safe to say that the joy of a victory, especially of a very small army over one much larger, put people in a playful enough mood, and made them feel sufficiently lucky (dare I say blessed?), to play a gambling game, which dreidl was, and for some, still is.
8. How do you say ‘Happy Hanukkah’ in Hebrew? Want to wish someone a happy Hanukkah in Hebrew? Tell them, Hanukkah Sameakh! You could also wish them, Khag Urim Sameakh, a happy festival of lights.
9. What is a menorah? The Menorah was the seven-branched candleabrum which stood in the Jerusalem Temple, having been built, according to the Hebrew Bible, by Aaron (brother of Moses and first High Priest of Israel) when the Israelites were traveling from Egypt to the Promised Land.
Menorah is also a word commonly used to describe the nine-branched candleabrum used on Hanukkah. The nine branches correspond to the eights nights of the holiday, plus one for the candle used to light the others.
10. What is the most important Hanukkah custom? According to tradition, the most important Hanukkah practices are lighting the menorah and singing praise to God for the liberation brought by way of the victory.
One could certainly argue that the most important Hanukkah practices are whatever acts help us find the light in our lives and in our world, empower us to help others do the same, and celebrate those moments when we have done so.

  • ThePrinterLady (TPL)

    The New Testament indicates that Jesus did indeed observe hannukah. In John 10 (v 22), it says: 22 Then came the Festival of Dedication[b] at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” The season is right, there is no other festivfval called the Feast of Dedication, and Jesus was in the Temple at the time.

  • Winger7

    Sorry, no Latkes for Jesus. Potatoes were brought to Europe from the Americas.

  • Bill Goff

    Jesus was and is a Jew. He celebrated Hannukah as indicated by John 10:22,23. It unfortunate that the word dedication is never translated as Hannukah in any English translation; so most Christians are unaware that Jesus celebrated this festival. When I studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem Rabbi Pesach Schindler wished the Christians in his class a Merry Christmas and reminded us that if there had been no Hannukah, there would have been no Christmas. My wife and I celebrate Hannukah by lighting candles on a menora for eight days. As a Christian I try to follow the example of Jesus whenever possible and I appreciate my roots in Judaism.

  • Gil

    Demetries Kaledemos – Your Greek mythology has quite few stories of Greek “gods” getting horney over Greek maidens – descending from Mt. Olympus – transforming themselves into an animal, and shagging an earthling. If Mary copulated with an angel – a projection of God – her offspring – Jesus – could not fulfill the Biblical prophasy of the Messiah coming from the house of David. You learned your religion taught to you by someone whose senses were warped by imbibing into too much Retzcina or Oozo. It can happen. In the immortal words of Socrates: “Ah gamiso putsi malaka.”

  • Dana

    What is wrong with you people? Can’t you just wish people a happy hanukkah? I am not Jewish or Christian, but really enjoy this blog because it speaks intelligently about faith and religion. Then you wack jobs write all this negative and hatefull stuff? I just don’t get it.
    At any rate Great blog Rabbi, and have a Happy Hanukkah!

  • A

    Of course Jesus celebrated all of the Jewish Holidays. He was Jewish.
    The western Civilization God-man Jesus that smacks more of a Nordic Pagan God than anything, is not Jesus. That Jesus is a concoction of paganism and Powerful monarchies and Theocratic institutions that lorded their power over the masses and controlled them for the church’s benefit.
    And of course, these little anti-Semitic ranters that love to spew their vomit and shite on these sites don’t even figure in to anything. Some are Personality disordered and some are just teenagers who tequate being filthy and hateful with having a sense of humor. They are meaningless.

  • Your Name

    the earliest mention of Hanukkah as such, as the festival of “dedication”
    is in the Gospel of John. Josephus, e.g., refers to its as the “festival of lights”.

  • Kosher Patriot

    By the way Ricky A., there is nor has been a Mark 18:3. The book only has 16 chaptrers!
    Thank you Rebbe for your blog and taking the time.
    Klag Urim Sameakh

  • b

    g,,,,,that little boy who threw dog poop from a can was you wasn’t it. Don’t lie.

  • david

    Happy Hanukkah and to all the haters,repent!

  • romanscapegoat

    the space aliens were the gods of the Egyptians, the Egyptians enslaved the Hebrews the people of god..the Egyptians made pyramids with the help of the space aliens…the pyramids are triangle shaped…the star of David is two triangles that form a star with 6 points…6 is lucifer’s number …the space aliens are really Lucifer and his fallen angels…everyone knows the stories of how space aliens are abducting people..torturing people..taking babies from pregnant women…UFOs spotted everywhere..crop circles..area 51…the space aliens have helped the Jews gain power of the world to take the Hebrews away from god…

  • A Barr

    Hanukka Sameakh! Thank you Rabbi Hirschfield for so often helping
    me to find the light in my own life.

  • maryann moon

    I’d say to that question, that since we are all radiant STARS who’ve descended from the sky for
    a short time, Yes, of course, being a Rabbi, Surely he must have.
    Fall in Love with God, take his invitation to dance across the sky, and remember who you are.

  • Robert Krakow

    Thanks to Rabbi Schnieder ( Discovering the Jewish Jesus), I am 100% positive that Jesus not only celebrated Hanukkah but all other Jewish holidays. I am happy for the Messianic Jews who teach the connection between the Tanaka and the New Testimate

  • just saying

    Jesus was against the Jewish religion…why are you Jews claiming Jesus as one of yours…you denied him in a horrible way

  • romanscapegoat

    Robert, if the Jews are teaching there’s a connection between the Hebrew religion and the christian religion it is only to make profit merging together to use god… just as the Hebrew temple was a den of thieves…Christianity has become the biggest corporation of thieves with a smile on their faces

  • Isaac

    Just one question’s nagging at me now. How could 1st century Jews have eaten potato pancakes if there were no potatoes in any of the places Jews lived in back then? I thought potatoes originated in South America, which likely had no meaningful contact with the Eastern hemisphere until fairly recently. The word ‘latke’ may be Yiddish, but Yiddish is a far more recent language than Hebrew.

  • Isaac Perez Bolado

    And by the way, romanscapegoat and “just saying,” I’m an atheist. I deny Jesus every day, sometimes in ‘horrible’ ways, but I don’t go about preaching prejudice against any group of people. Your behavior is in anything but christlike, and you should feel ashamed. We may have different opinions, but that doesn’t entitle any of us to disrespect and condemn millions of people without any foundation whatsoever.

  • romanscapegoat

    issac…the things i say are Christ like…god is everything and everywhere and doesn’t need mans religion to explain god…lucifer made religion to separate and to cause man to hurt eachother

  • Sandy

    Jesus/Yeshua did celabrate Chanukkah. It says this in John 10:22 It was in winter. It does not say what they eat at that time. But he did celabrate it. As far as being a beliver I am. I believe in the one G~D. As far as being racial in this I am not. We are of the human family and the ones that are his sheep will follow him. People do have problems with because they do not read the Word. They beleive what others say to them instead of reading it for themselves. Even in the Old Testament or Torah it was propheiced that he would come. Even though some beleive that he has yet to come. In Deut 6:4 it talks about beleiving the one true G~D that they are Ecade. All through the Torah it speaks of him. Everything in the New Testament refers back to the Old Testament or Tanach which has all the Torah and the Prophits and miner Prophits. He also states that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Yeshua said that and so does the Torah. A Rabbi once said that you can all the 613 Laws on one foot. That word was Love your neighbor as yourself. So why so much hate here. The things that happened, happened long ago and it was prophied that it was going to happen. So instead hate here why not read and learn more of the things in the bible,Tanach or Torah.

  • just saying

    sandy …are you a Jew that believes jesus was the son of god…your jewish religion forbids that kind of thinking out side the box…

  • SFMichele

    This is a very poorly edited sentence:
    “How they would have observed the day is more open to question, and they did know about dreidls (the spinning top associated with the holiday) or latkes (potato pancakes), both of which are Yiddish words!”
    Should have been “and they didn’t know about …”

  • Pingback: Did Jesus Celebrate Hanukkah? | Sonja Anderson

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