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8 Important Mental Health tips Hanukkah reminds us

Hanukkah is the winter festival of lights for Jews and is celebrated around the winter solstice in the Jewish month of Kislev. This is also called the Jewish festival of lights and is quite famous in western countries. Similar to our festival of lights (Diwali), in India, even this festival is celebrated with gifts, socializing, and elaborate meals across the world.

I was introduced to this festival by my Jewish colleague, while I was working in the USA. As I am very much interested in learning about new traditions and customs, I became an inquisitive student to my dear friend and learned a lot about Jewish customs and traditions. He was really sweet and patient enough to explain to me not only about his religion but also various festivals and the stories associated with them. Hanukkah captivated me at that time itself, due to the miracles and faith that surrounds this festival.

As a mental health advocate, when I was looking for blog post ideas, the Hanukkah stories came into my google feed today, as Hanukkah is starting from November 28th this year. So, I thought of writing about the mental health tips from Hanukkah rituals and traditions this time. Though these tips are very much applicable throughout the year, at least now while wishing our Jewish friends and families, we all can try to recollect them once again.

Mental Health tips from Hanukkah in the blog post by Mommyshravmusings

What is the Hanukkah festival all about?

Hanukkah means dedication in Hebrew. This festival is celebrated in the honor of rededication of the temple in Jerusalem, by Jews after fighting the long and hard battle with the Syrian Greeks during the 2nd century BCE. When they cleaned up the temple and wanted to offer their prayers, they found out that they have very small quantities of the auspicious oil which is used to light the lamps. It will take them eight days to purify the olive oil and make it appropriate to light the lamps at the altar.

Though they were worried about the quantity of the oil, they decided to light the single lamp to mark the celebrations and that how on day 1 of Hanukkah, one candle will be lit. To their surprise, that lamp which the Jews have lit, lasted for eight days, till the time the next set of purified oil could arrive. It was nothing short of a miracle, which showed them that the god was there with them and providing strength and support to them.

Hence, they started celebrating Hanukkah, also called Chanukah from that day onwards. Though it was not celebrated as a major festival initially, over a period of time, it got converted into a major festival for the Jews in western countries. This festival is being used as a platform to pass on their culture, the importance of their religion, and its rituals to the next generation that’s living far away from their motherland.

Hanukkah rituals and traditions

Hanukkah is all about getting together as a family and spending time with each other. This festival means a lot to the Jews in western countries, where they all assemble as family, share gifts, recite their holy scriptures, sing songs, teach the younger generation about their customs and traditions. It doesn’t involve any strict religious practices like Shabbat and other traditions.

As a part of this festival, the entire family gathers to eat different delicacies made with oil (fried potato pancakes, jelly donuts, etc), play dreidels (similar to spin tops), and light special menorah candles on the famous candelabra. Most people display these lights on their windows or put them outside their homes as well.

Mental Health tips from Hanukkah in the blog post by Mommyshravmusings

Mental health tips from Hanukkah

The following are the mental health tips that one can learn and practice from Hanukkah stories and rituals.

1. Accepting our uniqueness:

Every individual is different and unique. We need to accept our individuality first and then work towards preserving our uniqueness. Jews know that they are different from Syrians and others in that geography, but fought hard to preserve their unique identity. They accepted the fact that they are unique and different first, before fighting for their rights. In the same way, accepting ourselves is the first step in our journey towards self-actualization.

2. Light the Candle

The darkness surrounding us is nothing but our ignorance. When we light the candle of knowledge, the darkness would vanish. So is the case, with our mental health as well. We need to light the candle of knowledge and happiness to drive away from our mental health issues.

3. Work towards bettering yourself

The entire idea of lighting the additional candle on the next day is to see themselves in th\e new light after acquiring new knowledge or skill. Every day, we need to learn a new hobby or practice the same hobby to become more perfect. As long as we are working on learning new skills regularly, the stress and other mental health issues wouldn’t be impacting us. Lighting the candle as per the Hanukkah traditions is seen as igniting new knowledge to drive away ignorance.

4. Reward yourself for your accomplishments

As per the Jewish customs, they reward the children for good behavior with chocolate gelt (chocolate wrapped in golden paper), which would be relished by one and all. In the same way, instead of waiting for external compliments and rewards, we can reward ourselves after accomplishing the goals we have set for ourselves. When we stop looking for external validation, our mental satisfaction would improve.

5. Connect with Others

Socializing with others drives away all the mental health blues and that’s the reason why most of the festivals across religions and cultures recommend socializing in the form of family gatherings. Especially during winters, when the nights are longer, humans have the tendency to feel a little low and down. That’s the reason, why the family gatherings and most of the religious celebrations happen during this time of the year.

6. Do things for others

As per the mental health experts, taking part in social service activities improves mental health, as it improves the dopamine production in our brain. Even doing simpler tasks like helping our family members also improves dopamine production. A lot of Hanukkah stories reiterate the fact that helping others improves our happiness. Expressing gratitude and helping others are the vital character traits that one has to teach the younger generation.

7. Sleep and exercise well

Having a good sleep will automatically uplift our mood. When you are meeting your family members and enjoying the festivals with them, the sleep pattern will be more efficient and one can see an improved sleeping routine, which would improve both physical and emotional health as well. Playing various family games and helping other members of our family also improves our physical activity. This is what every other mental health practitioner also recommends, isn’t it?

8. Get a dash of sunlight

Last but not least, sunlight is essential for all living organisms. And especially in the chilly winter months, spending at least a couple of minutes in the available sunlight is known to boost our immunity as well as our mental and emotional health. And during the Hanukkah days, most of the family would be planning for their gatherings and outings to get a dash of sunlight, before the harsh winters start.

Final thoughts:

As a child, I was always curious about different rituals and traditions. After learning about those traditions, my parents used to ask me to correlate them to the current day’s modern lifestyle and ascertain why those are needed. While I was narrating the different stories about Hanukkah miracles, I could see that all the above eight tips are being recurrent in most of them in one form or the other. So, I had decided to correlate the mental health principles to the stories and miracles shared during Hanukkah by Jews. If we keep our eyes open and try to understand different cultures with an open mind, we can learn so many new things from each one of them. My parental lessons from Navadurga posts also fall under this category only. This is purely my personal endeavor and I don’t mean to demean any religion or culture by this blog post. I hope you all like this effort of mine in capturing the mental health tips from Hanukkah. Please let me know your thoughts in the form of comments.

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 This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla in collaboration with Mojo Box – A great way to sample brands before buying them This post is also powered by #CauseaChatter under the category of “Mental Health” by Blogchatter.

22 Comments

  1. I heard of Hanukkah when I watched FRIENDS, but didnt know what its completely about. You have explained it well. I love reading about different cultures and there festivities.

  2. i like the way you have linked the festival to mental health. it is always interesting to learn about new cultures & customs. Incorporating something nice from them is always good. Infact most customs of the olden days have so much insight to them

    1. So true Vasu. That’s the reason why our ancestors have started these celebrations and rituals as they felt that explaining those benefits would fall on deaf ears, but practicing would keep the meanings alive for generations

  3. I only know of Hanukkah through an episode in Friends with the holiday Armadillo. But this one was really interesting. Never knew how or why this festival was celebrated. And taking mental health lessons from that is absolutely new to me.

  4. As many people in the comments section have already mentioned, I heard about Hanukkah on the TV series, Friends. Thank you for the detailed info about the festival and how we can pick up some mental wellness tips from it!

    1. Thats the reason why I wrote this post Satabdi, as there are many beautiful, yet meaningful rituals all over the world and I just love to dig deep into them to understand more. It gives us a feeling of minion before all these cultures and traditions.

  5. I stay updated with the Jewish festivals thanks to one of my clients who is a practicing Jew right down to Sabbath, You are right, Passover and Rosh Hashana are more important festivals. But Hanukkah is more popular since it comes close to Christmas. Loved how you shared the mental health lessons from the festival.

    1. Yeah, Passover and Rosh Hashana are more important Jewish festivals with strict protocol. My respect towards the festivals grew only after hearing the stories about them. Thanks for dropping by

  6. I saw these candles in many house in this month here in the UK. Never knew about this tradition. That’s a detailed post about this and a good one to understand the real meaning of this beautiful tradition.

  7. You have drawn pertinent and interesting analogies and I really appreciate that you spoke about a religious practice that not many of us know about – Hanukkah!

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mommyshravmusings

Welcome to my Parenting blog, which captures my parenting journey with Shrav. Also, I list down the books I read and review here.

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