The Hindu and Jewish celebrations of the festival of lights often align at the same or close to the same time of year. These holidays take place after the circadian shift for many of us on Earth where we experience darker days. It is a good time to pull in the reins a bit. Instead of fighting through these busy days, give yourself some grace – hot baths, some slow flow yoga perhaps, and engaging in your own family traditions is a nice way to appreciate the season.
In my family, we celebrate the story of Hanukkah this time of year. It is the Jewish Festival Of Lights. It is a complex story but one I will do my best to shed some light on (no pun intended). It is about the biblical story of The Maccabee’s, a family of brave warriors during a time when Jewish people were subjected to terrible oppression – outlawed to worship, kept from establishing their own economy, and sadly being massacred. If you google search you will learn of a temple that was desecrated yet all the while some oil that should have kept a candle lit for only one day lasted EIGHT DAYS! Hanukkah is a memorial holiday celebrating this small miracle as the Macabee’s celebrated once they claimed their freedom.
So why the fried donuts and potatoes? We eat these fried foods because of the oil. Also, when the Maccabees retook the temple, they dedicated this small miracle with a feast! And since they celebrated, we like to as well. So, we light candles, eat fried foods, and give presents to one another while we praise God!
But why do we give each other gold coins (AKA Hanukkah gelt)? When an occupying force takes over a nation, one of the first things that happens is the shift of currency into whatever the occupiers accept. The coins are a symbol of Judean currency as a symbol of a free people. As we hand out these little gold chocolate coins, we remember that God has been faithful time and time again to free us from captivity and occupation!
And why spin the dreidel? Due to the outlawing of the study of Torah, Jews would spin a top disguised as a popular gambling device – all while learning Torah!
When I hear the story of The Maccabees, I am reminded of Prince Arjuna and Krishna from The Bhagavad Gita. Did the Maccabee’s have a similar journey with God?
Chapter 10 Verse 11, Lord Krishna says—‘To show them (the devotees) special mercy, I with the shining lamp of knowledge, destroy the darkness born of ignorance.’
I like to think that these festivals of lights are celebrated in the spirit that knowledge and understanding can help one to re-awaken something dormant, an inner knowingness as obtained by the Lord Krishna or God or whatever you believe to be sacred and true to you.
8 Yoga Postures, Activities & Games To Celebrate
8 Nights of Hanukkah
Dreidel Warm Up: Spin your dreidel and like a washing machine move your arms side to side…feel free to spin your arms quickly with the dreidel then slow them down as your dreidel lands and comes to a stop. Sing the Dreidel song as you go!
Well, I have a little dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it’s dry and ready
Then, dreidel I shall play
It has a lovely body
With legs so short and thin
And when it gets all tired
It drops and I will win
Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it’s dry and ready
Then, dreidel I will play
My dreidel is so playful
It loves to dance and spin
A happy game of dreidel
Come play now, let’s begin
Sun Salutations: Let’s light it up and create some heat during the festival of lights. I like to use the song Light Me Up by DJ Drez.
Maccabee Warrior Pose: Practice the balance between both softness (sukha) and strength (sthira) by softening the joints and squeezing the muscles of your legs.
Unwrapping Presents Pose: Start from Eagle Pose and begin to fold forward halfway until your elbow touches your knees then unwrap your arms and your legs like you are unwrapping a bow. Do the other side.
Candle Pose: After you light the candles, lay on your back and lift your legs to the ceiling until you land on your shoulders. Light up your candle and wiggle your toes as your flame flickers.
Potato Pancake: Imagine you are a well-formed potato pancake on the frying pan. Let me see you get out the wiggles and sizzle up like a potato pancake. Be as silly as you can. Are you a sweet potato pancake? He he.
Hide The Hanukkah Gelt: One person is the “hider” and one person is the “seeker” of the group. The seeker goes out of the room while the hider places a chocolate coin under one of the participants’ mat. Can they guess who has the coin? You get three chances and if you find it the coin is yours! Play as many rounds as you have chocolate!
Group Pose of Menorah: Gather your family and see if you can make the shape of a menorah on your floor. Make one person the “artist” to help you create the “look” and don’t forget to leave someone out to take a picture.
Feel free to use these ideas at your Hanukkah Party…so fun!
What you need: Chocolate coins, mats and a dreidel
Written by Halley Firstenberg, ChildLight Trainer