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Did you know it is Chrismukah?

It is December and that means Chanukah for the Jews and Christmas for the Christians. Thank you to the person who gave me the information to write about Chistmas.

The story of Chanukah

The eight branched menorah we use to celebrate chanukah
The eight branched menorah we use to celebrate chanukah

Chanukah is the Jewish Festival of lights. It is an eight day celebration of a miracle that occurred 2000 years ago. The Jews were attacked by the Syrian-Greek Empire under the rule of Antiochus III who tried, and failed, to steal the money stored  in the Temple.  Antiochus III was killed by Antiochus IV, known as the madman; he decided that his kingdom must have only one religion and placed his own priest in the Temple to collect the money that was being paid as taxes. The Jews rebelled, and when he heard this, he attacked them and killed thousands of people.  He then forbade Jewish worship and the scrolls of the Law were confiscated and burned. Sabbath rest, circumcision and the dietary laws were prohibited under penalty of death.

The caves of Judea
The caves of Judea

The Jews, who did not want to convert, hid in the hills and caves of Judea and were killed. Antiochus sent a henchman to the city of Modin and tried to get an old Jewish priest named Mattitiyahu to light a sacrifice to their idols.  When he refused, a Jew who had become an Hellenic worshiper, tried to light the pagan sacrafice and was killed by Mattitiyahu.  The Syrians were then attacked and, either killed or chased away, and the alter was destroyed.  Mattitiyahu, his sons and followers then hid in the Judean hills.  Before his death he made his sons leaders of the Maccabees to defend their religion. They returned to Jerusalem and went to the Temple to clean it out and get rid of all the idols and rededicated the Temple. A Menorah was made to replace the one stolen by the Syrian army and the new 8 branched candelabra was lit  However, there was only enough pure olive oil to last for a day b but, by a miracle, the oil burned for 8 days and 8 nights, which was long enough for new olive oil to be made.  The Rabbi’s (priests) declared an 8 day celebration to commemorate this miracle.

Each member of the family gets to light their own
Each member of the family gets to light their own

It is not a religious celebration like we normally have with big meals and synagogue attendance, rather it is a celebration where we light a new and extra candle each night, sing songs and play games. Each night of the festival children are given gifts, usually of money and, what would a Jewish celebration be without food? As we are celebrating a miracle that involved the use of oil, we make special food  that is fried in oil. The two main foods that are made and eaten are sufganiyot (doughnuts) and latkes (potato pancakes).

Latkes, these potato pancakes are a traditional food for Chanuakah
Latkes, these potato pancakes are a traditional food for Chanuakah

The story of Christmas

Christmas tree
Christmas tree

A few hundred years before King Herod ruled Judea. A young woman named Mary became pregnant through divine intervention.  She and her intended, whose name was Joseph, got married. At the same time Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, was also pregnant and later had a baby boy named John.

The city of Nazareth Isreal
The city of Nazareth Isreal

Mary and Joseph had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem where Joseph came from, to comply with the Roman decree of being counted where you were born. Because so many people had come to be counted there was nowhere for them to stay. The only place they could find was where the animals where kept. This stable is where she gave birth to the boy known as Jesus. Far away 3 wise men saw a new star in the sky.  They followed the star to Jerusalem as they understood what this meant.  They started asking questions and King Herod heard this and thought that the king they were talking about was going to try and take over his kingdom. He ordered the wise men to find the baby king.  The wise men followed the star to Bethlehem where they found Mary and Joseph with their baby, Jesus. They brought gifts of Frankincense, Myrrh and gold for the baby king and then returned home.

Nativity church in Bethlehem
Nativity church in Bethlehem

Joseph was told by an angel, in a dream, to go with his family to Egypt, where they stayed until Herod died.  They then returned to Israel and settled in Nazareth.

The reason we give gifts at Christmas is to symbolise the gifts given by the 3 wise men.  These gifts each had a meaning, they weren’t random (I won’t go into this as I don’t know enough about it and my blog is the wrong forum).

In my personal opinion but both Chanukah and Christmas are losing out to the commercialism of the modern world and we have forgotten their spiritual meaning.  They have, to a certain extent, become about the presents and not about why we have these two holidays.

On this note I leave you to think about why you are buying in to the practice of extravagant gifts and forgetting that no religion is about monetary or physical possession, but rather about respect and understanding and love.

So if you are going to give a gift, make it one you can afford and not one that you think the person wants.

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