Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why Celebrate Hanukkah: How-To for Newbies Plus Gift Ideas

If you are unfamiliar with Hanukkah, it may seem strange celebrating a "Jewish" holiday when you aren't Jewish. However, in the Bible the feasts were called the "feasts of the Lord" and were extended to the aliens in the land (that's the non-Jews). The feasts of the Lord hold incredible teaching opportunities for us as well as great spiritual truths. Plus, Christ honored them so why shouldn't we? Even though Hanukkah was not one of the original feasts in the Old Testament that were required to be celebrated, it is still an important part of Christianity's history and a brilliant reminder of God's provision.

Hanukkah is referred to as The feast of Lights or The feast of Dedication in the New Testament. John chapter 10 speaks of Christ being in Jerusalem during the feast. Shortly before this, he had given his famous "light of the world" message, which not so coincidentally would prepare the hearts of those celebrating the up and coming feast. Hopefully as they saw the lights, they would remember His words and their eyes would be opened to the truth. So, why celebrate Hanukkah if he's fulfilled the feast as the light of the world? Simple. It reminds us, inspires us and honors Him. 

So what were they celebrating exactly? Quick history lesson: the temple where God's people worshiped had been desecrated by heathens and was not functioning as God intended it to. A very brave clan with the name of the Maccabees stepped up and started a revolt. The temple of God was taken back and re-dedicated to God, hence the name Feast of "Dedication". The priests lit the lamps (menorahs) as they'd been commanded of God, but there was a problem - there was only enough consecrated oil to last three days and it would take a week to receive more. The priests had been commanded to never let the lights go out, so they would not be able to keep their requirements. Or would they? This is where the miracle comes in. The lights remained lit until the new supply of consecrated oil arrived - eight days. When God commands us do something, he makes sure we are equipped! He is the ultimate provider! I LOVE this story! It reminds me that no matter how crazy or impossible somethings seems, if God has called me to do it - he will give the provision! He's amazing like that!

Hanukkah starts on Thanksgiving day this year! How appropriate is that? On the day we give thanks, we can give thanks for his provision while celebrating the holiday that reminds us of just that! So if you are as smitten with this holiday as I am and are ready to give your best shot at "eight crazy nights", here is a simple how-to and a few small gift ideas. Don't become overwhelmed. Keep it simple and enjoy!

Simple How-to:

1. Get a menorah or make one. You can go all out and buy a beautiful Hanukkiah( a menorah specially for Hanukkah) or you can simply grab 9 tea lights or candles and line them in a row. Get creative with this! You will use the middle candle every night to light the candles, it is called the "servant candle" and represents Christ. You will start from the right end of the candles or menorah and, using the servant candle light the number of candles that correspond to that night of Hanukah. (ex. the fourth night of Hanukah, you will light the four candles starting from the right end- the servant candle remains lit as well).

2. Tell the story of Hanukkah. We celebrate to be reminded, so make sure you prepare your heart and the hearts of your children with the "why" of the holiday! This can be as simple or in depth as you want it. I will provide links to printables below.

3. Enjoy the Culture! Indulge in traditional Hanukkah goodies such as donuts or latkes. (recipes below)

4. Have some fun! Play dreidel! Target has dreidels and gelt (gold wrapped chocolate made to look like coins) in their dollar section. The game is easy and fun - the kids will love it! Make Hanukah crafts!  Use print outs for the kids to color or make Hanukah crafts!

Gift Ideas:

When you are buying gifts for eight nights, the cost can add up quickly. Small gifts are wise, especially if you also celebrate Christmas. Our family chooses to only give gifts the first night and the budget is around $5. We also only give to the kids. Don't feel pressured to stick to any certain traditions, make it your own.  Here are a few inexpensive gift ideas:

Gift cards - grab a $5 giftcard for Starbucks, Sonic, etc. Everyone loves these and it doesn't break the bank!

Dreidel and gelt - This will be a big hit with the kiddos and it's a fun activity to boot!

Movie night box - Grab a cheap movie and throw in some popcorn and candy! Voila! You have a family movie night!

Ornament - If you celebrate Christmas as well, this is a fun time to give a new ornament, since Hanukkah typically falls, or a tleast starts, before Christmas. 

Socks - This one is great for women and children! Make it more sophisticated by adding a nice foot cream or lotion. 

When buying for young children, think about age and gender. Girls tend to love nail polish, lip gloss, polly pockets, etc. Those items are inexpensive and still a delight! For boys, think small lego sets, Hot Wheels, etc. 

I tend to think "stocking stuffer" size gifts for Hanukkah. This is a good rule and makes gift buying easier! 

 Remember to make this holiday your own, creating personal traditions and memories! The importance is being reminded of God's goodness and all else is extra! Have fun and God bless! 



Hanukah story printable:

Activities/crafts for kid: