In the month of December, in countries with considerable Christian and Jewish populations, two holidays can be clearly noticed. Christmas, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, and Hanukkah, celebrating the miracle that took place circa 160 B.C.E. in Jerusalem’s Temple at the time of the Maccabean Revolt.
Christmas as a holiday does not appear in the New Testament because the holiday itself was introduced some time after the events which it commemorates. Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible because the events that took place too happened after the Hebrew Bible was completed. Ironically, while Hanukkah, also known as Feast of Dedication or Festival of Lights, is not found in the Hebrew Bible, it is found in New Testament. In John 10:22 we are told that Jesus went up to Jerusalem and “at that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem.”
For much of later Jewish history Hanukkah was a marginal holiday and was not extensively celebrated. The reason for this was that the miraculous event it celebrated was overshadowed by the tragedy of the subsequent and utter destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple almost 2000 years ago.
So, how did it happen that Hanukkah has made such a successful come back? One of the answers has to do with the commercialization of Christmas. As Christmas became dominant in its communal display, the Jewish community had to come up with its own alternative to avoid assimilation (to which the magic and beauty of Christmas no doubt contributed). Now, for better or worse, the white and blue colors of Hanukkah compete with, and add to, the traditionally red and green colors of the Western Christmas tradition. Jewish and Christian histories are connected even when they are trying not to be.
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