Next Sunday (22 December) is the first night of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.
The holiday commemorates events which took place over 2,000 years ago, when Israel was ruled by a king of Syria. Under the brutal reign of Antiochus, thousands of Jews were murdered in Jerusalem; the city’s Second Temple was desecrated, and to follow Judaism was outlawed. Jews were told to worship Greek gods instead — but a rebellion, led by the Jewish priest Mattathias and his sons, drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem.
To celebrate their victory, the Second Temple was rebuilt and its menorah (a candle with seven branches that represents God’s presence) was lit. Although there was only a tiny amount of oil, the menorah burned for eight days.
That miracle is why Hanukkah is now celebrated as an eight-day festival. Traditionally, Jews will light one candle of a menorah each night, as well as exchanging gifts, and playing games.
It is also a time for remembering the struggles that Jewish people have faced — and overcome — throughout history, and the decision to rededicate themselves to their faith.
What habits, beliefs or practices have you dropped that you hope to rededicate yourself to this year?
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What are some of the deeper meanings of Hannukah? A fast-paced, informative video about the holiday, its history and its traditions. What lessons can we all learn from the holiday?
- Think of something that you would like to “rededicate” yourself to next year. It could be something that you used to enjoy that you have stopped doing, or something that you still do that you want to do more of. Write it down on a piece of paper.
- Find out more about the story of Mattathias and his sons, including Judas Maccabee. Draw a cartoon which explains their rebellion against Antiochus.
- Hannukah is also about remembering the struggles that Jewish people have overcome. Write a short report on another difficult time in Jewish history.