Should Christians Celebrate Hanukkah?

I was recently talking to a group of my friends about the stresses of trying to move during the month of December and still needing to decorate the house for Christmas! Hauling in the tree, climbing up into the attic to get the Christmas stuff, unpacking the decorations and then having to pack everything back up again the day after Christmas.  Bah humbug, right? Jokingly, I told them that simply taking out a menorah seemed way more practical… and a lot easier!  To my surprise many of my friends (all Christian creatives in this particular group) celebrate BOTH Christmas and Hanukkah–and have their own menorahs!

Christians celebrating Hanukkah? Is that even allowed?

Growing up in a time when the neighborhood Catholics and Protestants kept an amiable distance from one another during their individual (yet similar) holiday celebrations, the idea of celebrating a Jewish holiday never really crossed my mind.  Truth be told, I’ve always wanted to host an actual Seder meal, but because of my obvious non-Jewish background, I thought it might be, at the very least, an impolite encroachment on my part.

What’s the real story behind the menorah? Why is Hanukkah celebrated, anyway?


From Buck Denver Asks Why Do We Call It Christmas?

The holiday of Hanukkah, or Feast of Lights, celebrates the events which took place over 2,300 years ago in Israel. It begins in the reign of Alexander the Great, who conquered Syria, Egypt, and Palestine, but allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions and retain a certain degree of autonomy.  About 100 years later, Antiochus IV rose to power in the region. He began to oppress the Jews severely, placing a Hellenistic priest in the Temple, massacring Jews, prohibiting the practice of the Jewish religion, and desecrating the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of pigs on the altar. One of the groups which opposed Antiochus was led by Mattathias and his son Judah Maccabee.

The Maccabees succeeded in driving the Syrian army out of their land.  They cleansed and re-dedicated the Temple. When it came time to re-light the Menorah, they searched the entire Temple, but only one small jar of oil bearing the pure seal of the High Priest could be found. Miraculously, the small jar of oil burned for eight days, until a new supply of oil could be brought. From then on, Jews everywhere have observed a holiday for eight days in honor of this historic victory and the miracle of the oil. The observance of Hanukkah features the lighting of a special menorah with eight branches, adding one new candle each night.

I’m a Christian, so how does anything to do with a miracle that happened centuries ago and the Jewish Temple’s re-dedication in Israel have relevance to me in my walk of faith? Simple. God’s miracles are still worth celebrating today! Plus, Jesus, who was a practicing Jew, also celebrated Hanukkah!

In the Gospel of John, we read, “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon” John 10:22-23.  Earlier in the same Gospel, John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life”.

Remembering that while we Christians are not bound by law or tradition to celebrate the Feast of Lights, our Christian faith is tightly rooted in Hebraic tradition. We, along with our Jewish friends, worship the one true God–the God of many miracles!   While we celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas, what a lovely addition it might be to also include a menorah; reminding us about God’s provision in our lives, as witnessed in the miracle of the oil, and then rededicating ourselves to Jesus, the perfect and everlasting Light of the World.

Do you celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah?  Share with us your story and what your traditions are.

Lisa Strnad is a contributing writer/blogger to What’s in the Bible? and Jelly Telly.  She is a homeschooling mom of two, who works independently in Christian media in the areas of writing, promotions and marketing.  She lives with her husband and children in Nashville,TN.  Follow her personal blog posts on www.talkinglikeagirl.blogspot.com.

Comment on a post
29 comments
Mark McKenzie
Mark McKenzie

I think there is some danger here.  As Gentile Christians, the New Testament is clear that we are not under the law, and we can easily slip into the legalism that Paul repeatedly warned about, as many were trying to convert the Gentile Christians to Judaism.  For Jewish Christians, it would be expected that they would continue to keep their customs according to the law, though understanding that the law is fulfilled in Christ.  However, it is not wrong for Gentile Christians to observe Jewish holidays, as we are grafted into the covenant by faith.  It is good for us to understand the Bible through these things.  But we must know that they are fulfilled in Christ, and we are not obligated to celebrate them, and there is not necessarily a special favor or blessing in celebrating them, beyond gaining Biblical understanding.  

KathyBreen
KathyBreen

Thank you I really like this I am celebrating Hanukkah for the first time this year. I was surprised to see it on this site. I want to thank you for helping me bring it to my family as we are non-jews but I believe as believers we are Spiritually Jewish.  God Bless You I hope more non-Jews realize how connected we are to our Hebraic Roots!!! 

justjillin
justjillin

We are messianic believers also and have moved away from Christmas to Hanukkah and the other feasts that the Lord celebrated rather than following the traditions of men that have gotten to the point of vulgarity. It makes me cringe when I see believers serving up ham for easter (Ishtar) yet not even acknowledging passover. There was a consecrated effort made to separate Judaism and Christianity over the years. It worked because most people that call themselves Christians don't have any idea who the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is.

alisa copeland
alisa copeland

love a copy of the book, thank you! i think instead of a gift each night, a family activity would be nice. 7 days of wonderful family focused fun!

Marianne Newbold
Marianne Newbold

Hi Jeff Kissell, if you are still reading the above mentioned blog, and also have any additional books of Passover, I would love it! My email is newboldmarianne@msn.com. Thank you so much!

Daphney Francois
Daphney Francois

Hi again, it's me daphney francois, my email address is October.ismine32@gmail.com I'd like you to email me the book on passover please. Thank you

Daphney Francois
Daphney Francois

Hi Jeff Kissell, can you please email to me book on passover. Thank you

Linda
Linda

I am a Messianic believer (a Christian who is kosher and celebrates the biblical holidays). I celebrate Chanukah because there is nothing wrong with celebrating it. I do agree that for the most part Christmas has been commercialized and there is absolutely no focus on the Lord. The focus is more on the fat guy in the red suit. That being said, some believers do sincerely love the Lord and they celebrate Christmas. I choose not to because neither Jesus nor his disciples or the first apostles celebrated it. Chanukah is not mentioned in the Old Testament but it is in John 10:22. The scripture states that Jesus is walking around in the temple during the Feast of Dedication. This Feast of Dedication of course is Chanukah as that is what Chanukah means. The scripture doesn't say Jesus is doing anything particularly celebratory but one has to ask oneself why is it even mentioned. The fact that Chanukah is mentioned means that God thought it was important. Anyway, to get to the point, we should do what we do with a right heart. I just hope one day all of us believers can be on the same page. Until then we should respect each others decisions to celebrate the way we want.

Sherri
Sherri

Jeff I would love the passover book....many thanks! feiga_1969@yahoo.com

Blessed beyond a doubt
Blessed beyond a doubt

I love learning, researching, and teaching my children about the Jewish traditions and holidays. It all stems to who we are today. However, I believe it is the heart of the individual. We celebrate Christmas because this is the day we choose to celebrate our Savior's birth. Regardless, of what people say the origin of Christmas....paganism of the Sun God or whatever. We don't do the Santa Claus thing because Santa is treated as an idol today. As far as Easter, we call it Resurrection Day. This is the day we chose celebrate Christ's resurrection. We don't do Easter Egg's because that is not what we are celebrating. I don't think it is wrong either way to celebrate one or another as long as your heart is in the right place and you are celebrating the true meaning of the holiday. Neither Easter or Christmas is a biblical holiday nor is it commanded. But just because it is not in the bible doesn't make it wrong. No where is Hanukkah mentioned in the OT that I am aware of.

Lassie1865
Lassie1865

This is the first year we are not celebrating Christmas; we decided it has too many pagan roots. We are putting together a 7-branch menorah to teach our granddaughters about God's lampstand. We're not sure about celebrating Hanukah, though; it is hard to prove that Yahowsha actually celebrated it just because he was walking in the Temple area in the winter . . . We are trying to keep the 7 appointed Feasts, however.

Jacqui M
Jacqui M

My husband grew up celebrating Hanukkah with his "Aunt" & "Uncle" (you know those aunts and uncles you have that aren't really your aunt and uncle!) In turn, they and their children celebrated Christmas my husband and his family. It is a great memory for my husband. Hanukkah for them was all about family and being grateful for God's blessings. We have since moved three states away and now have children of our own. We continue to celebrate Hanukkah with our children and it is something they look forward to every year.

Amy
Amy

My family has never celebrated Hanukkah but we have always respected it. However after watching "Why do we call it Christmas?" My husband and I have decided to buy a menorah and teach our children about Hanukkah. We had never thought about Jesus having celebrated it....never dawned on us. This year we will be adding a new tradition to our family's celebrations.

Gran Turner
Gran Turner

I love the expression some of the Jews use when they accept Jesus , they call themselves completed Jews!! I like that idea!

Jill W
Jill W

We've celebrated Hanukkah for several years now. The kids each get a small gift each night (with an occasional larger gift), and we light the menorah. We also celebrate the 7 major biblical holidays (Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Firstfruits, Shavuot, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles). We've found that the biblical holidays are chock full of Messianic significance pointing straight to Jesus--it's a great way to review God's miracles and covenants with His people and remind the kids that what happened in the Bible is *real* and part of our lives today! We're not Jewish, but as children of God, we relish His appointed times. Thanks for the post!

@SKITkids
@SKITkids

Yes, why not!?! Even Jesus celebrated Hanukkah! And where did our Sunday School kids learn that fun fact? From "What's In The Bible," of course!

Dorothy D
Dorothy D

I am a Christian and I am raising my son to know the truth of the origins of the so called "Christian" holidays. We do not celebrate them the way others do. No santa and xmas trees and decorations or easter bunny and eggs etc. We have attended Passover Seders and are celebrating Hanukkah for the first time this year. We feel that is only fitting since it celebrates cleansing the pagan garbage from the temple and the miracle of the oil. We love teaching him about the customs that Jesus Himself would have celebrated being a Jew. I don't understand why Christians don't celebrate them. After all, without a Jew (Christ), there could be no Christian.

Stephanie
Stephanie

I have always wanted to know more about Jewish traditions and holidays because Jesus was Jewish. I did go to a Seder meal once with my grandma, but that's all I've ever been exposed to. I think it would also help to understand more about Jesus and Christianity if I knew more about the Jewish faith.

Corinne
Corinne

We've never celebrated it either mine or my husband's families, but this year we have a new awareness. My girls have started Kindergarten in a public school that is pretty diverse. After watching the explanation of Hanaukkah on "Why do we call it Christmas?", they have taken an interest in it. They know a few of their teachers are Jewish and many of their classmates also. Since their school places a huge emphasis on respecting others and building them up, we have been using this awareness to show them the shared history between people of God. I really want my kids to understand what motivates other people, so when they are older and serving God, they aren't just beating people over the head with doctrine, but showing an empathic love as Christ did. I think this starts with showing them how other religions and cultures relate and are relative to them. I got a note home from one of the girls teachers (who is Jewish) telling me she was very impressed with my girls knowledge of the holiday. All I can say is Thank you Jesus, and Buck Denver..lol!

Jane Peterson
Jane Peterson

Absolutely! No question about it! I have had a child's menorrah for many years but could never get my husband to celebrate with me so I just had the menorrah. Now that I have my grandson, I'm thinking of introducing it as something Jesus would've been happy to do!

Sarah Raymon
Sarah Raymon

Jeff, could you post the title of the book? Is only talking about the Passover or does it also include Hanukkah? I love your idea about Praying for the missionaries, may I borrow this idea to share with my Church?

Alice Herrick
Alice Herrick

We have celebrated Hanukah for years. We don't celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December. We celebrate the birth of Christ during the Feast of the Tabernacle which some scholars believe may have been when he was born. During our Christmas celebration we do not have a tree because of its pagan roots nor the red suit and stocking stuff. We each get 3 gifts just like Jesus did. My husband made mangers for each of us and we put little things and candy in them. We bring them back out on Resurrection day ot reinforce the correlation between the two events. Hanukah usually falls near the December time when others are decorating and celebrating so my children never felt left out when they were too young to understand why others celebrated or got presents and we didn't.

Lisa S.
Lisa S.

Hey Jeff, I'd love to get the book! Here's my email: lcstrnad@aol.com

Jeff Kissell
Jeff Kissell

My wife is Jewish (However became a Christian 20 years ago) and we did for a while. What we did was each night we would pray for missionarys in a different continent. 7 continents, 7 lights and then the last night, the 8th night we would pray for the Jewish people, that they would come to know the true Light of the World. (For Antarctica we would pray for the chaplain and the Christians who are there. My wife also worked there for 8 years before we met.) Always make sure that Jesus is worked in to any Jewish holiday. (My wife and I do a teaching on Passover which includes the entire meal if you would be interested I can send you the book. Let me know.)

BridgetCarroll
BridgetCarroll

@Mark McKenzie what Paul is referring to is the Religion of Judaism in which the Jews believe that they are saved by obeying the commandments.  So, Yeshua (reiterates) that He did not come to nullify the law, rather to fulfill the law.  And that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and noone can get to the Father, but through Him.  All the Biblical Holidays should be followed by all who have faith in Him.  All the other pagan days are not Biblical, and that is dangerous to follow.  The Bible warns us not to do the things the pagans do, like decorating a tree, which is pagan.  I would rather be caught by Yeshua celebrating Hanukkah then talking about Santa and hanging up a tree, which there are scriptures in Bible that say clearly that this is pagan, in the old covenant.  And Easter, which is a pagan day that celebrates the greek pagan goddess Istre.  I would do some research before you think there is danger in celebrating what the Bible teaches.  

Gina Dee
Gina Dee

@Jeff Kissell 

I have read through the comments of the others and for the most part agree with those who have made a conscious choice to celebrate Hanukkah!  I am African-American but have been born again for more than twenty years. In my spiritual walk with the Lord, I have come to realize the value in honoring my Hebraic roots.  To this end, can you please send me the book that you make mention of in this posting?  My email address is biotechtrials@gmail.com.  Thank you so much!

Mark McKenzie
Mark McKenzie

The NT does not have any examples of Gentile Christians celebrating Jewish feasts. Acts 15 and 21:25make clear the obligations of Gentile Christians regarding the law of Moses, as do Galatians and Colossians. Christ fulfilled the law and so fulfilled the feasts, which were merely a shadow of things to come. You quote no scripture to support your statements which is understandable. Just because Christmas and Easter are pagan doesn't mean that we should go to the dead works of OT rituals.

Mark McKenzie
Mark McKenzie

@charmedp326 @Mark McKenzie Jesus celebrated Hanukkah, and all of the other Jewish feasts.  He also FULFILLED them all.  Acts 15 and Acts 21 make clear the obligations of GENTILE Christians concerning the law of Moses.  Gentile Christians have freedom in Christ, and CAN celebrate Jewish feasts, but are not REQUIRED to do so.  If a Gentile Christian chooses to celebrate a Jewish feast, he ought to remember that Christ is all to the Christian, he should acknowledge Christ in it, and there is not necessarily any type of spiritual blessing in doing so, contrary to what many are teaching today.  A Gentile Christian celebrating a Jewish feast in the manner of non-Christian Jews without giving any honor to Christ is a strange thing.  There is danger in doing this, as many Gentile Christians today are falling into the same trap that Paul warned about repeatedly, as his Gentile converts were being told that they were now obligated to become circumcised, observe the Jewish dietary laws, keep the feasts, etc. 

Christmas is another topic, which was not the topic of the article and was brought up by others.  Since it was brought up, Christians have freedom in this also, but we should make our decisions based on knowledge.  Christmas was a pagan holiday that they cut and pasted the gospel over.  If you know this and think it is acceptable to God to celebrate, you have freedom to do so.  

charmedp326
charmedp326

@Mark McKenzie actually, Jesus himself celebrated Hanukkah. The author of this article has an example from the new testament where Jesus and John attend a Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah): “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon” John 10:22-23. So....

I mean, to be completely honest, I'm all for the Christmas tree, and I don't think Christ will hate me because I have one up for two weeks out of the year, but I actively believe that Christians as a whole should celebrate the holidays that Christ himself celebrated - considering he was a Jewish man, that would include Hanukkah.