Nazarene Space

Celebration of Channukah

The central element of Channukh celebration is the lighting of the Channukiah, a special Channukah menorah. Unlike the seven branched menorah, the Chanukah menorah has nine branches. Eight of these are for each of the eight days of Channukah and one, called the Shamash (helper) is used to light the other eight. This ninth light is usually elevated from the other eight so as to distinguish it from the others.

One each of the eight nights of Channukah an additional candle (or lamp) is lit so that on the eighth day, all eight are burning. The first night the light on the far right is lit. On the second night the two on the farthest right are lit and so on. Also each night we begin by lighting the new light first and then working our way back to the beginning (to the left) so that the first comes last and the last comes first.

On Friday evenings the Channukah candle (or oil) is lit early, before sun down and before the Sabbath candles. On Saturday night the Channukah candle is lit after havdalah (the close of Sabbath).

Each night immediately after lighting the Channukah lights, the following prayer is said:

Baruch ata YHWH Eloheynu Melech Ha-Olam
Asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Channukah
Baruch ata YHWH Eloheynu Melech Ha-Olam
She-asa nisim la’avoteynu bayamim haheym ba-zman hazeh.

Blessed are You YHWH our Elohim, King of the universe
Who has sanctified us by your commandments and commanded us to kindle the light of Channukah.
Blessed are You YHWH our Elohim, King of the universe
Who worked miracles for our fathers in days of old, at this season.

On the first night of Channukah we also recite the Shehecheyanu, the traditional prayer marking special occasions:

Baruch ata YHWH Eloheynu Melech Ha-Olam
Shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higanu la-zman hazeh.

Blessed are You YHWH our Elohim, King of the universe
Who has kept us in life, and has preserved us, and enabled us to reach this season.

Since Channukah is eight days long, we suggest studying each of the four books of Maccabees for two days, thus progressing up the four levels of understanding as follows:

Days 1-2 1Maccabees Pashat
Days 3-4 2Maccabees Remez
Days 5-6 3Maccabees Drash
Days 7-8 4Maccabees Sod

Channukah is also often celebrated by eating foods cooked in oil. Traditional favorites are potato latkes, a sort of potato pancake. Another favorite are homemade donuts fried in oil.

Many families also exchange gifts at Channukah. Some see this as a custom borrowed from Christmas, however some evidence indicates that gift-exchanging was a common part of Jewish festival celebration in general, and may have been incorporated into Christmas from Channukah. It appears that anciently Jewish festival celebration often included gift-giving. The Scriptures mention this custom in connection with Rosh Hashanna (Neh. 8:10) and Purim (Ester 9:22) and it may well have been practiced in connection with Channukah as well.

Another popular Channukah custom is the dreidel game. A dreidel is a four sided top, with a Hebrew letter on each of the four sides. The game is played by spinning the top, when the top finally comes to rest, one of the four letters is facing up (similar to rolling dice). The letters on the dreidl are:





These four letters stand for the phrase:

Nes Gadol Haya Sham
“A great miracle happened there.”

Depending on which letter comes up the player does one of four things:

gimel Take everything from the pot.

hey Take half of the pot.

shin Put one in the pot.

nun Do nothing.

Children often play the dreidel game with candy coins called “gelt”. There is a tradition the game was used to conceal Torah study in times when Torah study was outlawed. Men would be gathered around studying Torah and if they were discovered by the authorities they would pretend to be gathered around gambling.

Channukah is not just a Jewish holiday, it is a key to prophetic events of the last days. Embedded within the Channukah story are elements foreshadowing the apostasy, the abomination of desolation, the Great Tribulation the Anti-Messiah, the martyrs of the tribulation, the false prophet, the remnant, the return of Messiah and the Messianic Kingdom to come.

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Comment by ohevyisrael on December 5, 2008 at 11:01am
This is our first year celebrating only hanukkah and not christmas. I am so excited because we are really going all out with it. We will be going to 2 community festivals in Sarasota and we have our menorahs(the kids have their own) and our driedel and we have 2 books of crafts, food and blessings. Last year we celebrated it just a little by lighting the menorah and we played driedel and read the story, but we also did christmas for the last year and it was really a transitional year for us! But we're happy to say that this year we have stuck to all the biblical feasts (plus purim and now hanukkah) and no pagan holidays! Baruch HaShem!


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