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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, November 16 2023

Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Purim

Thanksgiving Day in the United States will be observed on Thursday, November 23, 2023. Many in Australia also observe Thanksgiving Day, highlighting their gratitude and thankfulness for their blessings.

Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Purim
A Thanksgiving dinner often includes a turkey.

The Jews also observe the annual feasts of Purim (the origins of which are described in the book of Esther) and Hanukkah, otherwise known as the Feast of Lights or Feast of Dedication (John 10:23). Some believe that celebrating Christmas, Easter and Halloween fall into the same category, but there are important differences in the background and intent of these observances. (See our free study guide Holidays Or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe? for more information.)

Purim commemorates the defeat of the Jews' enemies during the time of Queen Esther, and Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Jerusalem temple after its defilement by the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes. Neither incorporates pagan customs. Hanukkah, like the American holiday of Thanksgiving, is a celebration of thanks and honor to God for His blessings.

An important distinction between these holidays and those rooted in paganism is the realization that these celebrations can be kept in addition to God's commanded feast days. These particular days are in harmony with the Apostle Paul's admonition for "giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20).

Thankfulness is a state of mind, an attitude. It is a positive perspective which does not focus on what one does not have, but rather values what one does have, no matter how basic. The Apostle Paul expressed this concept in his letter to Timothy when he wrote: "Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content" (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

An added dimension to attaining ultimate thankfulness (1 Thessalonians 5:18) comes when we focus on that which transcends this temporary physical life—the life which is spiritual and endures forever. This physical life is just the first stage in the process, as we all seek to be part of that great Kingdom of God—our ultimate eternal destiny!