Friday, 3 December 2010

December - festivals of light

December in the Northern Hemisphere, is a time of darkness and cold. Little wonder that, through the ages, it has been marked with ceremonial observance of the natural cycle which sees the beginning of the return of the light and warmth, and with celebration of man's battle against the darkness - both metaphorical and physical.

This year, the first of these festivals, is Hanukkah - a celebration of the oil that lasted eight days. The story tells of how, in 164BC, after the  Jews returned to  Jerusalem, they found the Temple had been defiled. They cleaned it and rededicated it to God, but were only able to find one flask of oil to keep the menorah lit. It took eight days to get new oil. They lit the menorah on the first day and waited for more supplies. The one flask of oil would normally have lasted for one day, but the menorah remained lit throughout the eight-day wait.

Hanukkah, is an eight-day festival, marked by the kindling of light. It's a Jewish 'festival of light' in the darkest time of year. It is celebrated by lighting one candle on the Hanukiah (an nine-stemmed candelabrum) each day.The ninth stem is for a candle used to light all other candles.

The secondary message of Hanukkah - taking the darkness which can hide the beautiful things we have in our lives, and lighting a little bit of it. Many families don’t keep their menorahs in privacy in the home, but display them at windows or doors. They light those candles not just for themselves, but as an example to others, to the public, because they believe this message is not just for each individual’s personal life, but something to be shared with the world.”