The hustle and bustle of the often hectic holiday season can make it easy to overlook religion during this special time of year.
Come the holidays, adherents of Judaism celebrate Chanukah while many Christians celebrate Christmas. Though different, the two holidays share some similarities.
In celebration of Chanukah, families gather for an eight-day commemoration to honor the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem and a miracle in which a small amount of oil illuminated a menorah for eight days. Perhaps because it falls during the holiday season, Chanukah has become one of the most well-known Jewish celebrations, even for those who do not adhere to the Jewish faith.
For devout Christians, Christmas isn't about eggnog and Santa Claus. Christmas (Christ's Mass) is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the son of God. Christmas is a day of great joy in the Christian faith because it marks the beginning of Jesus' time on earth.
Both Chanukah and Christmas, while joyous celebrations, are laced with solemnity. The Second Jewish Temple was desecrated by Greek-Syrians, who had erected an altar to Zeus and sacrificed pigs within its sacred walls. At this point, Jews had to practice their faith in secret, reading the Torah underground and using dreidels to simulate games and confuse Greek soldiers. However, the Jews, led by a small group of rebels known as the Maccabees, persevered, marking the joy of Chanukah for years to come.
The period leading up to Christmas known as Advent is a time for repentance and preparation for the grace and miracle of Jesus' birth. According to Christianity.com, the word "advent" is derived from the Latin word "adventus," meaning "coming." Advent is a time to both reflect on the past and look forward to the future. Much like Lent, Advent is intended to be a season of fasting, prayer and reaching out to God.
During the holiday season, houses of worship customarily host prayer sessions and special holiday-related events. The faithful are encouraged to participate in these events in celebration of their faith.
Prayer can help remove distractions during the holiday season, helping individuals reconnect with the true meaning of the holiday season.