About 2200 years ago my people were conquered by Alexander. A group of guerrillas, the Maccabees, led by members of the priesthood, overthrew the Greeks, tossed their gods out of our temple and reinstated the Jewish state.
The legend says that there was only enough oil for one night’s lighting of the Temples’s eternal light, the menorah. BUT, somehow the light lasted eight days. That Menorah, by the way, was stolen by the Romans and is featured today on the arch of Hadrian in Rome. Rome later a Christian State never returned the Menorah. It was last reported in Constantinople.
So Hanukkah is more like the 4th of July than it is like Christmas or Solstice.
There is, however, a sad connection to Christmas. When the Romans came, the descendants of the Maccabees were the Priesthood and these folks supported Roman rule in return for keeping their priestly power. The priests were opposed by a non violent movement of Jews .. the Pharisees people denigrated by the Christian bible. The Pharisees, probably the first teachers of non violent resistance, were brutally repressed by the Hasmoneans,
So who was Jesus? Jesus was not a Rabbi but was a lay leader of the Pharisees. We know this because he was crucified for preaching resistance to Rome and many of the words attributed to Jesus are from the teachings of the greatest Pharisee, Hillel.
So this is the sad irony of Hanukkah for the Christian church. As loyal Romans, the founders of the Church had to denigrate the teachings of their own messiah. Worse. the Christian Church went on to become the most intolerant religion of all, like the Romans and the Hasmoneans, imposing their God not only on the descendants of the Pharisees but on millions of other innocent people, all in the name of a minor Pharisaic teacher who himself taught non violent resistance.
Rather than being bitter, it seems to me that there is a lesson to be shared here. America was founded by people fleeing later versions of the Hasmoneans. In many ways the founding fathers and mothers were Pharisees, peacefully resisting there Christian State Religions by escaping to a new place. Their cause was later taken up not by Americas new churchly establishment but by Dr. King, Saul Alinsky, Bernie Whitebear, and others who were very much the heirs of the Pharisees.
The need to stand up to our oppressors and reject efforts to impose religion seems to me to be a great American tradition ... that somehow has roots in the long struggle of the Jews against the impositions of our Islamic and Christian conquerors. These two religions, the heirs of the lands ruled by the Roman State and the Roman Church are unique in their use of the sword for conversion. ,Jews, Buddhists, Egyptians, Aztecs, Buddhists, pretty much understood that the state was .. well, the state. Their gods might well choose sides and usually did, but the idea of giving one's power in the form of one's god to the folks uou conquered was a gift the Romans left to the world.
The lesson of Hanukkah, moving from the heropism of Maccabees to the collusion of the priests who the Macabees brought to power, seems to me to be that the principles of humanism, the principles taught by Jefferson, Alinsky, Obama, Hillel, Chavez, John Paul XXIII, the principles of freedom of belief transcend any religion.
Happy Hannukah, indeed.