Is Hanukkah (Christmaskah) something Christians should celebrate?
Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights marked by an eight-day celebration that begins on the 25th day of Kislev on the Jewish calendar (this falls in November or December in the Gregorian calendar). It is one of the best-known Jewish holidays in the Western world due to its proximity to Christmas.
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Historically, Hanukkah commemorates the acts of the Jewish Maccabees. The Maccabees successfully defeated a Syrian army that had left the Jewish temple defiled. On Kislev 25, 164 BC, the Maccabees cleansed the temple and rededicated it to the Lord. The temple had previously been desecrated with the inclusion of a Hellenistic priest, the sacrifice of non-kosher pigs on the altar, and other practices contrary to Jewish teachings. The Maccabees changed this dishonorable past by their rededication of the temple to the Lord and restoring the Jewish temple customs.
According to the historical tradition, when it was time to light the menorah lampstand in the temple, only one small jar of priestly oil could be found. This oil miraculously burned for eight days until more could be provided. This led to the tradition of an eight-day Hanukkah that included the lighting of one candle each of the eight days on a menorah each night.
In the New Testament, Jesus was at the Jewish temple at the Feast of Dedication (another name for Hanukkah): "At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon" (John 10:22-23). It appears Jesus celebrated Hanukkah as part of participating in Jewish life and customs.
But should Christians celebrate Hanukkah today? While it may be especially appropriate for Christians from a Jewish background to celebrate this holiday, there is nothing inappropriate from a biblical perspective for a Gentile Christian to celebrate Hanukkah. Neither is there a biblical command for either Jewish background or Gentile background believers to celebrate Hanukkah. The apostle Paul offered much insight regarding the personal convictions that can be applied in the celebration of special days (Romans 14:5-6).
Jesus called Himself the light of the world: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). Our highest goal as believers is to follow Him and to share this Light of the world with others.
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