December is a very important month for the Jewish and Christian faiths. We look at the significance of hanukkah and Christmas.

Christmas Day on 25 December is celebrated by Christians around the world as the birthday of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, although the Bible does not mention the date of Jesus’s birth. It was a few years after his death that Roman church officials settled on this date to challenge pagan (nature-worshipping) festivals happening during this period in an effort to lead people towards Christianity. For a long time, Christmas was celebrated only at public gatherings.

In the early 1800s families began celebrating with their own festivities at home. Traditions such as putting up a Christmas tree with decorations in the home and exchanging gifts became common. The tradition of putting up Christmas trees dates back thousands of years, with many believing it stems from Northern Europe, as the evergreen fir tree symbolised eternal life when most plants were dormant in winter.

By the 1900s, people began spending more money on Christmas gifts and celebrations, and the gift-bearing Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, became a symbol of this holiday in many countries. It’s commonly believed that Santa Claus is based on a 4th-century Turkish bishop who became the patron saint of children.

A small group of brave Jews…managed to drive the mighty Greek armies out of Israel

Hanukkah or Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates miracles that happened around 2100 years ago, when Israel fell to the Syrian-Greek emperor, Antiochus. He wished to force his Hellenistic ideology on the Jewish people, banning the study of Torah and defiling the Holy Temple in Jerusalem with Greek idols.

Miraculously, the Maccabees, a small group of brave Jews led by Judah Maccabee, managed to drive the mighty Greek armies out of Israel.
On reclaiming the Holy Temple, they wished to light the Temple’s menorah (candelabrum), but found that the Greeks had contaminated nearly all the pure oil that is used to burn it. There was only enough oil to burn for one night, and it would take eight days to prepare new oil. The next miracle was that the oil lasted eight days and nights, and the holiday of Hanukkah was established. To celebrate these miracles, the menorah is lit on the eight nights of Hanukkah, this year starting on 12 December. During Hanukkah it is traditional to eat foods fried in oil such as latkes (fried potato cakes) to symbolise the miraculous menorah oil, to give gifts of money to children and play dreidel games with spinning tops that have different religious meanings.
A SPECIAL MONTH A SPECIAL MONTH Reviewed by Zandile Xabendlini on November 08, 2017 Rating: 5
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