As a Christian who celebrates Hanukkah, I’m used to the raised eyebrows and careless remarks that come from misunderstanding.
So, to head off a few of them, here are the Top Ten False, Incorrect, Not True, Wrong, Myths about Hanukkah.
#10 Hanukkah was made so Jews would have something to do during Christmas. Wrong. The celebration of Hanukkah began well nearly two hundred years before the birth of Jesus.
#9 Hanukkah is a Jewish Christmas. No, it’s not. It’s a totally different holiday that falls around the same time of the year as Christmas.
#8 Rabbis decide when to celebrate every year. No. Hanukkah moves around on our modern Gregorian calendar, but it always begins the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, and continues for eight days.
#7 The word Hanukkah means “Festival of Lights.” No. Even though we call the holiday the Festival of Lights, the word Hanukkah (an Americanization of the Hebrew word חנוכה ) means dedication. Hanukkah celebrates the anniversary of the rededication of the Temple.
#6 Jews do not eat yeast during Hanukkah. No. That’s Passover. Yeast is permissible, and enjoyed, during Hanukkah. The only dietary restrictions during Hanukkah are the same as those observed year-round.
#5 Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Bible. The Hanukkah celebration is in the Christian New Testament gospel of John. John 10:22-23 records Jesus going to the temple during Hanukkah.
The events surrounding Hanukkah can be found in the apocryphal books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees, which were part of all Christian Bibles for the first 450 years after Jesus, and which remain in Catholic Bibles.
In addition, many scholars believe that the vision recorded in Daniel 8 is of the events surrounding the rededication of the Temple under the reign of Antiochus–the reason behind the Hanukkah celebration.
#4 Only Jews celebrate Hanukkah. Not so. Some Christians–who believe that Jesus is the incarnation of the God of Israel–embrace Hanukkah as an opportunity to remember and to teach about God’s miracles and provision through the Jewish people.
#3 The dreidel is just a toy. While the traditional Hanukkah spinning top is a toy, it is also a cleverly-devised way to recount God’s miracles. The letters on the dreidel form an acronym in Hebrew which means, A Great Miracle Happened There (Or “happened here” when played in Jerusalem).
#2 You need an expensive and sacred menorah to celebrate properly. Nope. People often design and purchase expensive, elaborate Hanukkah decorations, but a simple line of candles will do. For a quick do-it-yourself hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah), super glue nine hardware nuts to a ceramic tile. Add candles. Or you can just line up candles together. The lights become sacred when they are dedicated to God.
And the #1 myth about Hanukkah. . . You can’t celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. Nonsense. You may celebrate one or the other. Or neither. Or you can celebrate both!
“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind…Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:5, 13, NIV)
Note: This post was edited 12/5/2015 to eliminate broken links, to insert a link that works, and to slip in some of the information that the broken links would have given, if they were still there. -kf