Hanukkah is a traditional, non-biblical Jewish holiday that falls in December and commemorates the Jews’ military defeat of the pagan Greeks and their dedication of the temple in Jerusalem after the heathens had desecrated it through idolatry and forbidden biblical practices. According to tradition, as part of the rededication ceremonies, some holy olive oil was needed to light the temple’s menorah, yet none could be found, until someone found a small vessel containing only enough oil to last for a day. This oil was poured into the menorah, and miraculously the oil burned for eight days, which is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days. The historical events behind Hanukkah are chronicled in the apocryphal Book of First Maccabees (chapters one and two). These events occurred about 160 years before the birth of Yeshua (Jesus).
Though Hanukkah is a minor holiday, and is not a commanded biblical festival, there is record in the Testimony of Yeshua (New Testament) that Yeshua was at the temple in Jerusalem during Hanukkah (a Hebrew word meaning “to dedicate”), also known as the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22).
Hanukkah should not be viewed as a replacement for Christmas and in fact pre-dates the Christian Christmas by hundreds of years. It is a stand-alone holiday that has nothing to do with Christmas. In reality, Christmas is the melding together of some Biblical beliefs (i.e., the birth of Yeshua, although he wasn’t born in December!) with many traditions that are undeniably pagan in origin (see any encyclopedia on the subject of the origins of Christmas), including the biblically forbidden and idolatrous heathen practice of cutting, setting up and decorating a tree (Jer 10:1–8), which Scripture refers to as a vanity tree and regards as a foolish heathen activity (Jer 10:8). On the other hand, Hanukkah commemorates the Jewish people coming out of paganism and rededicating their temple and themselves to follow the pure truth of the Word of Elohim (God) which is unpolluted by pagan practices and unbiblical traditions of man.
What is the spiritual lesson that we can take from the story of Hanukkah? It is clear that the YHVH (the LORD) doesn’t want his holy people to dip into the sewage of pagan belief systems and practices. Rather, they are to remain pure and undefiled from the pollution of the heathen world around them. John the apostle under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit declares that the saints are to come out of religious Babylon (that worldwide spiritual system that mixes a little Bible truth with a lot of paganism, Rev 18:4). Paul echoes this warning when he calls on the people of Elohim to separate themselves from the heathen and their sinful practices (2 Cor 6:16). He goes on to teach that since the saints are the spiritual temple of the, how can he walk with them and they be his people if they are walking in the darkness of heathen customs and following idolatrous practices (2 Cor 6:14–16)? This is a question we all need to ask ourselves.
The Maccabean Jews who refused to follow pagan Greek practices fought hard to be true to the Word of Elohim. Some even lost their lives in the battle against the heathens who had desecrated the temple of Elohim in Jerusalem. They were willing to die for their beliefs because it was more important for these faithful people to be pleasing to Elohim than to curry the favor of the heathen by having a go-along-to-get-along attitude and offend a righteous Elohim who commands his people again and again to walk in holiness (Lev 20:7; 1 Pet 1:16; Heb 12:14).
So say good-bye to Christmas and other non-biblical Christian holidays. Say hello to Hanukkah, but don’t stop there! Go to the higher spiritual ground and begin celebrating the seven biblically commanded holidays (or holy days) starting with Passover in the spring followed by Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles, and the Eighth Day. Begin to learn about these “feasts” and then celebrate them. They all point to Yeshua in some major way. They all teach the basic gospel message in seven easy-to-understand steps. They are literally a treasure chest of rich and deep biblical truths relating to the past history of Elohim’s people, the current walk of the redeemed (born-again) believer in Yeshua the Messiah, and they help us to understand what lies ahead prophetically for the end times saints as well.
Some people begin celebrating Hanukkah as if it were somehow the Jewish replacement for Christmas. It is not. If you feel the need to celebrate the birth of Yeshua the Messiah, the time to do that is during the early fall biblically-commanded Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot, which is when Yeshua was actually born. During this glorious eight-day long celebration, we live in temporary dwellings (e.g., manger-like affair called a sukkah, or a tent, an RV, or a hotel). At Sukkot (plural for sukkah), we rejoice in the fact that YHVH Elohim came to dwell with his people in the tabernacle or sukkah of human flesh through his Son, Yeshua, who now dwells or tabernacles in us through his precious Holy Spirit, who guides us as we journey through life en route to the Promised Land of our eternal life and spiritual inheritance.
So as we celebrate Hanukkah, let us think of Yeshua, the Word of Elohim who came to this earth during the fall biblical festival of Sukkot to be our spiritual light in this dark world, and to lead us to his Father in heaven, whose kingdom will be our eventual eternal home.
So as you celebrate the ancient Jewish Hanukkah tradition of lighting the Hanukkah menorah symbolizing the rededicating of the temple in Jerusalem, may you and your family be blessed as you rededicate yourselves as the temples of the Holy Spirit, to Yeshua who is the light of the world.