Why We Choose To Celebrate Hanukkah (and how we do it)
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(Hey you! Busy Mama! if you don’t have time to read the entire post, just skip to my P.S. at the end – I want to hear from you!)
Yep, it’s me. Here after a reallllly long blogging hiatus. I’m hoping to sit down soon and write a nice newsy post and catch you up to speed on our crazy happenings around here, but in the mean time, I thought I’d pop on because it’s the start of Hanukkah and I just had to share what we’re doing (and why)!
I posted recently on instagram about why we’ve chosen to celebrate Hanukkah, even though our family is not Jewish –
“We get asked if we’re Jewish because we celebrate Hanukkah, and no, we’re not Jewish, but we do observe this AMAZING 8 day celebration that commemorates the unlikely success of a small band of Jews that victoriously pushed back against the Greek army. Not only that, but once they reclaimed the temple, they wanted to dedicate it back to God by celebrating the feast of Tabernacles (an 8 day Feast) but there wasn’t enough oil to light the menorah for that long. However, their oil continued to burn and did not stop burning until they’d finished their celebration! This is a celebration of MIRACLES with a powerful message and reminder for all that the darkness cannot overcome the Light.” (catch my full post here)”
So that’s the short version.
The even shorter version is: It’s life changing.
We’ve been celebrating Hanukkah since my children were very little, but each time it rolls around (sometime between late November and late December), I learn even more – about the story of Hanukkah and more importantly, the goodness and overwhelming love and faithfulness of God.
He always keeps his promises. No exceptions.
He swore that he would never allow the Jews to be wiped form the face of the earth, and not only did he fulfill that promise, but He went over and above and blessed the Maccabees desire to rededicate the temple, allowing their menorah to stay lit for 8 days, when their was only enough oil for one.
If you want to learn more about the WHY and WHAT of Hanukkah, take a minute to check out these few clips on the history and celebration of Hanukkah – and why Hanukkah is not just for Jews!
and also this one:.
And now onto the HOW of celebrating Hanukkah!
Your Hanukkah celebration can be as simple or elaborate as you choose. Personally, we like to keep things simple and meaningful, but there is technically only one thing you’ll need:
a Hanukkiah – a menorah that is specific to Hanukkah. A traditional menorah has 7 branches – one for each of the seven Feasts of the Lord, and it’s used all year in Feast celebrations. However, a Hanukkiah has 9 branches – one for each day of the festival, and one branch called the sh’mash or servant candle, and it’s used to light all of the others.
this one is a complete kit with candles and all
this is a fun (and safe one) for the kids
this one, this one and this one are on my wish list!
To celebrate, grab your menorah (or make your own! simple DIY ideas here) and on the first night, light the servant candle and then extinguish the match. Then, use the servant candle to light the first candle and allow them both to burn down completely. On the second night, repeat these steps, lighting the first and second candles. Continue on until you reach the eighth night, thus lighting all nine candles.
Aside from lighting the menorah each night for 8 nights, there are no other specific guidelines to celebrating Hanukkah.
Here’s how OUR FAMILY celebrates Hanukkah –
Lighting of the Menorah.
Jewish families will recite prayers as the candles are lit, and this is a wonderful component to add, whether you are Jewish or not. Our family takes a little different route, and instead, we pray before lighting the candle (more on that in a second) and then as a, uh…joyful….if not melodious….expression, we sing this song, getting faster and faster until it’s a jumble of shouting and we can’t go any longer. I blame this tradition purely on my husband.
This is, to me, one of the greatest aspects of our Hanukkah celebration and the most important part to pass on to our children. Hanukkah is the season for Miracles. It’s commemorating a time when God did the impossible and this is a truth that I want my children to cling to. During the 8 days of Hanukkah, our family spends time each night praying for those that need miracles. I post on social media, asking for prayer requests that we then place on cards in our Hanukkah calendar, and then I divide the requests as evenly as possible over the 8 nights (thanks to my dear friend Angela for the awesome idea!). We also spend time as a family writing down our own requests and reminders to pray for our dear brothers and sisters in Christ through out the world.
We keep this simple as well, with homemade buntings, cut out stars, lights, lots of twinkly lights. Homemade is the name of the game around here, and here are the ideas and projects I’ve compiled.
We read a Hanukkah story every day for 8 days, and I’ve got a wonderful list of titles that we work from as I slowly build our home library. I’ll be sharing our reading list soon – so check back!
Our family also celebrates with donuts on the first and last nights of Hanukkah. There’s no rhyme or reason to imbibing on these particular days – other than I choose not to serve donuts every night, despite the temptation to do so. Donuts and latkes (think fried hashbrowns from heaven) are “traditional” Hanukkah fare – as is any food fried in oil – a tip of the culinary hat to the miracle of the oil.
So remember: donuts = miracles.
Isn’t Hanukkah amazing!
If you’re looking for some Hanukkah cooking inspiration, check these out –
Sufganiyot (Hanukkah jelly donuts)
gluten free + Paleo Apple latkes
Paleo Hanukkah recipe round up
Yes, our family does still celebrate Christmas in an abbreviated way (more on this in another post). However, my husband and I decided that we’d give our gifts to the kids on the last night of Hanukkah, and Christmas gifts are reserved for grandparents and extended family on December 25th.
If you’ve never celebrated Hanukkah before, I can’t recommend this enough!
And I know. One.More.Thing. to add to an already packed and chaotic holiday season.
However, please believe when I say that it’s absolutely worth it!
Do as little or as much as you’d like.
Simply read the story of the Hanukkah miracle to your children.
Sit quietly together and pray for those that you love, because this is the season for miracles.
Eat a donut or two.
In the midst of this crazy month, Hanukkah is a time to slow down. To remember and pass on to our children the promises of God and his supernatural intervention in the lives of those who honored Him and refused to compromise.
P.S. Our family truly DOES want to pray for you! As part of our personal Hanukkah celebration, we want to spend time on each of the eight nights of hanukkah, praying for those of you that need miracles – those that need to see God move in unexplainable ways and to see the darkness over come in your own life or in the lives of those you love. If you’d like us to pray for you, please comment below or email me. We’ll be placing each request in the pockets of our Hanukkah calendar and pulling them out each night to pray. Please never be afraid to ask for prayer or reach out. My children would love to pray for you! May you know the Light that has conquered darkness during this season!