First Night of Hanukkah

It’s the first night of Hanukkah, an 8-day Jewish holiday, also called the Festival of lights or the Feast of Dedication.

What’s it about? The Selucid Empire had conquered Judah. The Selucids were interested in Hellenizing all conquered lands, and all practice of the Jewish religion was forbidden on pain of death. The temple in Jerusalem was even defiled by erecting an altar to Zeus in it. But Judas Maccabeus led a successful rebellion against the Selucids in the 2nd Century bc. And the defiled temple was rededicated to the God of Israel.

OK, this is just a very basic intro.Want to know more? In this video, Mayim Bialik of the Big Bang Theory explains the holiday and various misconceptions about it. And in this performance of Handel’s Judas Maccabeus, a rabbi gives an excellent 10-minute talk about Hanukkah.


  • Because the story of Hanukkah appears in 1 Maccabees, which is not considered canonical by Jews, Hanukkah is only a minor holiday.

  • In John 10:22 Jesus is at the temple for Hanukkah.

  • Visit your local Whole Foods and try some potato latkes. (Latke is the Yiddish word for pancake.)


Why do Jews follow a holiday from a non-canonical book of the bible?

It is based on their history and celebrates a victory for their people.

Jews celebrate Hanukkah because it celebrates a historically significant event in the history of Judea-- the successful military revolt of the Judeans against the Selucid Empire and the rededication of their temple to the God of Israel. It’s just not a MAJOR religious holiday since Maccabees is not part of their canonical Scripture and God doesn’t command them to celebrate Hanukkah. Think of it this way: American Christians often attend Thanksgiving services at church on Thanksgiving day, but this holiday is minor compared to our other religious holidays.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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