Tomorrow night is the first night of Hanukkah (Chanukah, Hanukah, Hanukkah, however, you want to spell it)! I can’t wait for sundown when I can light my menorah and start celebrating the Festival of Lights for 8 nights. This is one of my favorite times of year and one of my favorite Jewish holidays.
And this year, Hanukkah falls over Christmas, which is my also my favorite because, while everyone is celebrating Christmas Eve, spending time with their families and waiting for Santa, I get to feel the exact same holiday cheer and excitement. Of course, I always feel the holiday cheer, but this year I get to participate in it and celebrate along with everyone else.
Hannukah doesn’t always fall over Christmas because Judaism is practiced on the lunar calendar, meaning our holidays always fall on different days, and sometimes in different months. A few years ago, Hanukkah started on Thanksgiving (we all called it Thanksgivukah), and some years, it starts in the middle of December.
In case you didn’t know, here’s a brief history of Hanukkah: when the temple was burned down by the Greeks, the Jews didn’t know what to do. They had very little oil to burn for light. They lit the oil and expected it to only last one night. However, it burned for eight whole nights before going out. It was a miracle. This gave the Jews hope, which helped them to keep their faith and keep fighting back against the Greeks. Now, when we celebrate Hanukkah, it’s a celebration of light and miracles. We add one candle to the Menorah (a candle stand with room for eight candles, plus one to light them) each night to celebrate the miracle of the oil burning for eight nights.
Hanukkah has turned into a gift-giving holiday, where we open one gift on every night. But that’s not why I love Hanukkah (although who doesn’t love getting presents?!) I love Hanukkah because it is a holiday to celebrate faith and miracles. It’s a holiday to gather around with your families and talk and laugh and just remember all that has happened in the past. For the ancient Jews, it was a holiday that celebrated a reaffirming of faith and hope. All around, it’s a holiday to simply celebrate life, family, and faith.
And I love when it falls on Christmas because the holiday cheer all around me only makes my excitement about the holiday and the season multiply. While everyone is eating their Christmas feasts (whatever they may be), I’m chowing down on some delicious latkes. When everyone else is nestled safely in their beds, dreaming of dancing sugar plums and Santa coming down their chimney, I’m dreaming of candles burning and dreidels spinning. On Christmas morning, I’m feeling just as much excitement as the little kids pulling presents from under their trees because, even though I have to wait until sundown, I get to celebrate too.
And, if you’ve done the math, you’ve figured out that Hanukkah falls into the New Year this year too. So not only do I get to celebrate Hanukkah over Christmas, when we countdown into the New Year, I get to countdown to the last day of Hannukah too.
It’s like having extra holiday cheer.
So: Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all, and to all a good night.
Featured Image via WeHeartIt.