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Festival of Lights

Feast of Dedication (Heb. hanukka).

In 1 Macc. 4:52-59 it is called "the dedication of the altar," and by Josephus (Ant. 12.7.7) "the feast of lights."

It was a popular and joyous festival commemorating the purifying of the Temple, the removal of the old polluted altar, and the restoration of the worship of Jehovah by Judas Maccabeus, 164 BC.

This feast began on the 25th Chislev (December) and lasted eight days but did not require attendance at Jerusalem. Assembled in the Temple or in the synagogues of the places where they resided, the Jews sang "Hallel," carrying palm and other branches; and there was a grand illumination of the Temple and private houses.

The origin of the illumination of the Temple is unknown, although tradition says that when the sacred "lampstands" of the restored Temple were to be lighted only one flagon of oil, sealed with the signet of the high priest, was found to feed the lamps. This was pure oil, but only sufficient for one day-- when by a miracle the oil increased, and the flagon remained filled for eight days, in memory of which the Temple and private houses were ordered to be illuminated for the same period.

No public mourning or fast was allowed on account of calamity or bereavement. The festival did not require anyone to abstain partially or completely from his ordinary occupation, and unlike some other celebrations it was not marked by a holy assembly at the beginning and the end. The celebration was always of a joyous, exuberant character which commemorated the restoration of the worship of the Temple (1 Macc. 4:41-49).

The similarity between this festival and the "feast of Booths" would seem to indicate some intended connection between the two. Without doubt, Jesus attended this festival at Jerusalem (Jn 10:22). It is still observed by the Jews.