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Feast of the Dedication (Scriptural)
Also called the Feast of the Machabees and Feast of Lights (Josephus and Talmudic writings), mentioned in the Old Testament (I Machabees 4:56), and in the New (John 10:22). It was instituted by Judas Machabeus (164 B.C.) to be celebrated yearly on the 25th day of the month Kislew and during its octave, in commemoration of the purification of the temple of Jerusalem which had been polluted by Antiochus Epiphanes on that day three years previously (I Machabees 4:41-64; II Machabees 6:2). Unlike the great Hebrew annual feasts, it could be celebrated not only in the temple at Jerusalem, but also in the synagogues of all places. It was observed with manifestations of joy such as accompanied the Feast of Tabernacles, during the celebration of which the dedication of the first temple had taken place. During the celebration of the feast mourning and fasting were not allowed to begin. The Jews assembled in the temple and synagogues bearing branches of trees and palms and singing psalms; the Hallel (Psalms 113-118) being sung every day. The joyful character of the feast was also manifested by illuminations, which may have been suggested by the "lighting of the lamps of the candlestick" when the temple service was first restored (I Machabees 4:50-51), or, according to very early Midrashim, by the miraculous burning throughout the first celebration of the feast of a vial of oil found in the temple. Since the first century a general illumination of Hebrew houses has been customary, every house having at least one light, and some, according to the school of the rabbis, having one light for each person in the house on the first night and twice the number on each succeeding night; others again, having eight lights the first night and a lesser number each night thereafter. Modern Hebrews keep the feast on 12 December, with strictness, but do not forbid servile work. At the daily morning prayer a different portion of Numbers 7 is read in the Synagogue.
LIGHTFOOT, Horæ Hebraicæ (Oxford, 1859), s. v.; The Jewish Encyclopedia, s. v. Hanukkah, the Hebrew name of the feast; SCHÜRER, A Hist. of the Jewish People, etc., 2nd ed. of Eng. tr., I, 217, for complete bibliography.
ARTHUR L. MCMAHON