My favorite holilday celebrations growing up have been all about singing.
I was a Jewish girl growing up in a mostly Christian town. Fortunately my mother was a strong supporter of celebration, whatever the religion. We hung up stockings on our fireplace, and thrilled to see presents. I was sure every Christmas that I heard Santa on the rooftop. But the most special activity for me centered on singing joyful Christmas melodies. Caroling in our New England town was a moving spiritual experience even for a young Jewish child.
Chanukah also had it's songs. Fortunately as the years have gone on the traditional medley of eight or so main tunes has been sustained, and at the same time has been augmented by luscious additional melodies. Singer-songwriter Julie Geller, for instance, in the video below, sings an inspiring updated version of one of my favorite traditional tunes, Al Hanisim, "On the Miracles..."
[If the video did not come through on your server, click here. The song is well worth hunting down.]
Julie's song centers on the central miracle of the holiday, that light from a small vessel of oil lasted for a full eight days and nights. Light stands for learning, for studying religious wisdom traditions, for spiritual growth, and for joy that can penetrate even the deepist times of darkness.
Chanukah celebrates also a military victory, a miraculous victory of a small band of Jewish citizens who stood up to the tyranical Greek-Assyrian armies that had invaded and were ruling over the country that now is called Israel. May we all speak up and fight for what we believe in, hoping for victory even when we are a small and weak few standing up against a strong and powerful many.
How appropriate at every time of year for all of us to treasure our cultural heritages. And as we treasure meaningful sacred times...may all of us join together in singing!