Contributed by: Hannah Stoddard
Since our family has Jewish ancestry and because we came to realize, several years ago, that “Hanukkah” is connected to the birth and prophetic mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, we celebrate our own version of this day each year and the kids LOVE it! It is a time of celebration, of commemorating miracles and a time to remember that the Lord will deliver those who put their trust in Him.
Hanukkah starts at night in complete darkness. All the lights are turned off and we then light our “servant” candle (or shammash in Hebrew). The “servant candle” is set apart from the other candles and its “mission” is to bring light to the other eight candles. During Hanukkah, the servant lights an additional candle each day until the eighth day when full light returns! Joseph Smith was born on the 8th day of Hanukkah when the “servant” candle was symbolically bringing light back to the world! If you read Joseph Smith’s patriarchal blessings, I believe you will recognize that he is the Latter-day “servant” foretold through Isaiah, Ezekiel, 3rd Nephi, etc.
Each night, as we lit a new candle, we sang hymns, watched uplifting movies or talked as a family. We had discussions about Joseph Smith’s mission and how he was born during the darkest time of the year (December). Joseph Smith was born the day after the “Winter Solstice”, the shortest and darkest day of the year. When his birth date dawned (December 23), it marked the beginning of brighter days! A day of new beginnings!
Each year we have a different theme. This year we had friends come over to visit, we had special desserts and one night we retold the story of the Maccabees! What I love about this holiday is having a time to remember that even in our darkest days, when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, “the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.”