Today is the first day of Hanukkah. Of all the holidays in the Jewish calendar, the Festival of Lights is one of the most celebrated. It is also recognized by people outside the Jewish faith, just as Christmas and Easter are known worldwide.
As a Catholic, the story behind the tradition is one I am familiar with. Catholic Bibles contain books within the Old Testament that are not included in the Protestant Bible. Protestant Bibles have 39 books of the Old Testament, while Catholic Bibles have 46. Those not included in the Protestant Bibles are Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach and Baruch. Catholic Bible’s also include sections in the Books of Esther and Daniel which are not found in Protestant Bibles. All interesting subjects for debate another time.
Hanukkah is the celebration of the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian army. This victory led to the re-dedication of the temple and eight-day celebration is told in the first Book of the Maccabees. What is not contained in the Old Testament telling of Maccabees is that there was only enough oil to light the lambs for a single night, yet the miracle of Hanukkah tells us that God kept the Menorah burning for eight nights.
I believe our Advent Wreath with its candles comes from the Jewish observance of Hanukkah. Catholicism and Judaism are very much intertwined in their customs and rituals. More so than any other denomination of Christianity. While the story of Hanukkah does not appear in the Torah, it is a part of oral tradition. Many of the Catholic traditions are also rooted in oral history.
The Torah was written before the victory over Syria took place. Nonetheless, the feast is mentioned in the New Testament. In John 10:22, Jesus attends the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem. This feast honors the re-dedication of the Temple following Jewish victory over their occupiers. It is very much a part of the Hanukkah tradition.
I wanted to put together an entire Hanukkah Feast for this first night, but I’m not Jewish and do not fully grasp the ins and outs of Kosher cooking. Rather than make a mistake, I thought it best not to try. Instead I’ll say Happy Hanukkah and share with you a delicious recipe for a roast chicken. It’s about as Kosher as I can get.
Simple Cast-Iron Roasted Chicken
3-1/2 lb Chicken Roaster
Kosher Salt to taste
Olive Oil as needed
Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Season generously with salt, inside and out. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. Let sit 1 hour to allow salt to penetrate, or chill, uncovered, up to 1 day ahead.
Place a rack in upper third of oven. Place a large cast iron skillet in the cold oven to warm. Heat oven to 425-degrees.
While the oven warms, pat chicken dry a second time with paper towels. Drizzle with olive oil, rubbing oil into the the skin, making sure to coat between the legs and the body and the back. Sprinkle with salt a second time.
Carefully remove the skillet from the oven. Coat the bottom of the hot skillet with olive oil.
Place chicken in skillet and roast for 30 minutes undisturbed. Remove from oven, baste chicken and cavity with juices that have accumulated in the skillet.
Return to oven, continue to roast another 30 minutes or until chicken juices run clear and the bird is cooked through.
Remove from oven. Invert a large metal mixing bowl over the chicken. Let rest for 20 minutes.
Transfer to a carving board. Remove dark meat first, separating leg from thigh. Carve breast meat, leaving breast bone with the carcass.
This purely delicious chicken is awesome with mashed potatoes and pan dripping gravy or your favorite Roast Chicken sides.
May God smile on all His children this night and every night for all the days of our lives. May we be transformed with the light of joy, love, peace and harmony.