Sunday, December 18, 2022

‘Masonic service announcement: Hanukkah edition’

Every year I am tempted to post something like the following, but either something distracts me or I simply forget it, but the repetition of this photo, in Happy Hanukkah greetings, on social media tonight reminds me anew:

This is the perfect photo not to use in Hanukkah greetings. This is a panel on the Arch of Titus in Rome, erected after Emperor Titus’ death in 81, commemorating his defeat of the Jewish people in Jerusalem. The art depicts the looting of the Jewish Temple, not a Jewish celebration of any kind. I saw this several times on social media today, posted by at least one person who ought to have known better.

So, as a Masonic Service Announcement, I give you The Magpie Mason Hanukkah Style Guide. It’s a tricky subject. Believe me, there are plenty of Jews who don’t know some of what I’m explaining here. And let me say it is very greatly appreciated to be remembered on our holidays by our Masonic brethren of other faiths.

Close, but not quite there.
But it’s the thought that counts!

Freemasons exhibiting knowledge of, and respect for, each other’s religious traditions is as old as our form of Freemasonry itself. The inspiration for that originates in Anderson’s Constitutions for the first English grand lodge, a document that will reach its 300th anniversary in the New Year.

I’ll keep it short.


I believe standard contemporary American English has it Hanukkah. There is nothing incorrect about Chanukah, but I’d say that today that is an alternative spelling, one that seems to invite a stab at an ethnic pronunciation. Don’t trouble yourselves. And there are additional spellings, but rest easy and stick with Hanukkah.

The Menorah

Trust me on this. I was made a Mason (twenty-five years ago!) in a lodge named Menorah.

There are two styles of menorah: one of seven branches, and the other of nine. For Hanukkah, you want the whole nine. To wit:

The seven-branch candelabra, you Royal Arch Masons may be pleased to know, was constructed by Moses per specs from God, and this was the menorah (the word means “lamp”) that was lit in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.

Judaism’s Hanukkah story tells of a tiny quantity of oil burning for eight days, so the correct candelabra for this holiday has eight tapers, plus a “helper” in the center from which the others are lighted.


You knew Jason wouldn’t let us down.

Religious life is organized on a lunar calendar, so it may be that Hanukkah approximates Christmas each year, but you won’t find it on the same dates in our secular Gregorian calendar. In my experience, this isn’t much of an issue in Freemasonry, but if your lodge or other group thoughtfully displays a menorah amid a nice Yuletide display (I hope you’re not surrendering to a generic “winter holiday” banality), then please refrain from lighting the menorah until the first night of the celebration. This year, that arrived tonight, but next year, look for December 7. And that’s at sundown (again, lunar calendar).

I hope this helps.


Anonymous said...

Very enlightening

Heather said...

You should remind people yearly about this... seriously.