Hanukkah: Jewish Feast of Dedication or Lights
This calendar year, the Jewish “feast of dedication” or Hanukkah (as it is popularly known) begins on December 22. The institution of the Jewish feast known as Hanukkah occurred during the time between the close of the Hebrew Scriptures and the beginning of the New Testament period.
The apocryphal books of Maccabees provide background information concerning Hanukkah. The feast was instituted as a commemoration of the victory of the Jews over the Syrians in 165 B.C. and the cleansing of the temple during the Maccabean Revolt (1 Macc. 4:36–61; 2 Macc. 1:18; 2:16–19; 10:1–8). The word “Hanukkah” means “consecration” or “dedication.” The festival is mentioned once in the New Testament (John 10:22-23 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon).
Hanukkah is also known as the Feast of Lights and is associated with the ceremonial lighting of eight lamps during the festival (one more is lit on each day of the feast). This practice derives from the legend that only one cruse of oil was found when the Jews reoccupied the temple, but it (“miraculously”) lasted for seven days, so the lamp in the temple continued to burn until a new supply of oil could be consecrated (b. Shabbat 21b). The candle lighting is accompanied by the singing of the Hallel (Psalms 113–118) and the waving of branches.
Hanukkah seems to be modeled on the ceremonies that Solomon observed to dedicate the Jerusalem temple and/or the temple purification by Hezekiah (both having some connection with the Feast of Succoth – 2 Chron. 7; 29; 2 Macc. 1:9, 18; 2:1; 10:6–8).
Despite the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70, Hanukkah continues to be celebrated as a significant Jewish festival and is observed by the lighting of lamps in private homes.
Hanukkah is a Jewish festival and not a Christian festival.