At different times in the past I've been able to attend one or more of the 8 days of Hanukkah in a Jewish synagogue. Hanukkah is celebrated by Jewish people usually coinciding with the early days of the Christian Advent Season.
Today on this 11th day of Advent Hanukkah begins at sundown. Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication or Feast of Lights, celebrates the rededication of the temple at Jerusalem in 165 BCE. The temple had been razed by Antiochus Epiphanes IV as a part of his effort to wipe out the Jewish Faith. During the 8 days of Hanukkah there is much in parallel with the celebration of Advent, or Christmas. It is a time for the exchange of gifts, the playing of games, and the singing of songs. One of the familiar songs sung especially by Jewish children is "O, Chanukah, O, Chanukah." Among the verses in this exuberant song are these, translated from Hebrew to English:
O, Chanukah, O, Chanukah, come light the Menorah,
Let's have a party, we'll all dance the Horah
Spin the whirling dreidels, all week long
Eating the sizzling latkes, sing a happy song.
Now light them tonight then, the candles all in a row,
We'll tell the wondrous story, of G_d in all His glory,
The wonders of long ago.
I hear this singing about dancing, having a party, spinning, happy songs, and I think, of all the people who have ever graced this earth the Jewish people have the least reason to sing and dance. Persecution has never been absent from their personal and national life. I remember Psalm 137 as the Jewish captives being led away into slavery cry out when commanded to sing by their captors, "How shall we sing the songs of the Lord in this strange land?" Indeed, how can any of us celebrate life in the midst of personal grief, defeat or uncertainty? I think the celebrants of Hanukkah know a thing or two and it's given to us in Psalm 18. "O God, thou dost light my lamp" (the Menorah), "thou dost lighten the darkness" (the end of the Holocaust, 1945), "and by my God I can leap over a wall" (badly burned Glen Cunningham breaking the 4 minute mile).
Hanukkah/Advent/Christmas is about light after darkness, breaking barriers, overcoming obstacles, letting this little light of mine shine, shine, shine!
Gotta do it! It's in us, waiting for just the right moment to come out and sing and dance and play.