Around December a lot is going on and a lot is being celebrated. Many people celebrate Christmas, but there are also many who celebrate Hanukkah. I looked into the difference and similarities to get a better understanding of both holidays.
What are the differences between Christmas and Hanukkah? Christmas and Hanukkah are holidays celebrated in the winter that are very different celebrations. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, while Hanukkah is in remembrance of past miraculous event, when Jews reclaimed their temple after Syrians forced them to worship false gods. The lighting of the menorah for eight days is a part of celebrating Hanukkah.
Hanukkah and Christmas are both important holidays for different reasons to different groups of people, but while they hold many differences, they also are similar in many ways.
History Behind Christmas & Hanukkah
History is a big part of setting the holiday Christmas and Hanukkah apart. Each of them is largely defined by commemorating an event in history.
Christmas is a holiday that commemorates the birth of Christ, hence the name Christ in Christmas.
The birth of Jesus who is the Christ is so important and celebrated so much today is because Jesus, the son of God humbled himself when he came to earth. He took on the weak state of flesh and walked among us and taught us. Most significantly he died on the cross to save us from our sins.
…but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:7,8
Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December every year, although this is most likely not the actual day that Jesus was born, it was chosen to be the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
The traditions around the celebration of Christmas have changed much over the past hundreds of years, but the reason behind the day has stayed the same, to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar which falls around December every year.
Hanukkah originated two hundred years before Christmas, and sometimes referred to as Chanukah or the festival of lights.
This holiday is inspired by the miracle that occurred when the Jews reclaimed their temple after Syrians had tried to take over and force the Jews to worship other gods.
One of the priests, along with his sons started a revolt, and after his death, his son Judas Maccabees successfully reclaimed the temple and won two major battles.
When the Jews went to rededicate the temple and light the menorah’s eight candles they realized they only had enough oil for one day.
Even despite the limited oil, they lighted the candle and for the next eight days, the candles were continually lit until new oil was made and purified.
Because of this eight-day miracle, Hanukkah is now celebrated over an eight-day period to remember the miracle of the menorah.
Differences Between Christmas & Hanukkah
Christmas and Hanukkah are very different holidays as we even just see from the history behind them. Digging even deeper many things set these holidays apart.
First, we should acknowledge that Christmas is a Christian holiday, and Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday.
Hanukkah although widely celebrated among the Jewish community is not the biggest holiday for the Jewish people. It is a relatively small holiday with no requirements to go to the synagogue or avoid work.
Christmas on the other hand is a much bigger deal, and even a federal holiday in the United States. This is because it is a much more historically noted and important holiday to the Christian faith and imperative to the gospel message.
Christmas is always the 25th of December, but Hanukkah can vary what day it is in today’s calendar.
The length of both holidays is also very different. While Christmas only lasts for one day and occasionally is celebrated over a 12-day length of time, Hanukkah is eight days long.
As mentioned before their history and reason for celebrating are very different. While Christmas emphasizes the birth of the savior, Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the menorah and the rededication of the temple.
The overall celebration of the two holidays is very different. Looking at them side to side and the way they are celebrated greatly distinguish them from each other.
When celebrating Christmas there is usually a time to attend church, either on Christmas eve, or Christmas day. Since Christmas is only a day long all festivities are packed mainly in one day.
Hanukkah has its many traditions spread out over a time of eight days, and they do not need to go to the synagogue as part of the celebration of Hanukkah, but prioritize the lighting of a new candle after sunrise each day. They also play games associated with the holiday such as the dreidel game.
Even when people are generally speaking of the two holidays, Christmas trees and nativities are associated with Christmas while a menorah and dreidel are associated with Hanukkah
Similarities Between Christmas & Hanukkah
Despite the many differences between the two holidays Christmas and Hanukkah, they also have quite a few things in common.
Many people think the two holidays are related because they both occur in the winter and commonly both in December.
If you think of either holiday, the family is a big part of each celebration, Christmas and Hanukkah prioritize time with family during the holidays.
Today gifts are also a big part of both holidays as it is now a tradition to exchange gifts during Christmas and Hanukkah.
The holiday spirit of giving is present for both the Jews celebrating Hanukkah and for Christians celebrating Christmas. Giving of time and money around the holiday season are valued by both holidays.
It is a big deal around Christmas time for those celebrating Christmas to put up lights on your tree, around and on your house, Hanukkah is also called the festival of lights and value lights as well.
Looking at the way Christians celebrate and Jews celebrate can highlight the differences, but there are also many similarities involved as well. Big delicious meals are involved that you get to eat with the family. It is a time to relax and enjoy each other’s company. The exact food may be different but they both include delicious foods
Celebrating Christmas & Hanukkah Today
Changes occur all the time, and we can see this a lot with holidays as the world also changes around us.
The similarities and differences listed above do not always apply as traditions are changing.
Christmas for example has changed a lot throughout the years, and now many people who celebrate Christmas do not do it for the birth of Christ but the giving of gifts and the getting together of family.
Hanukkah remains a very Jewish holiday, but because of the wide-spread celebration of Christmas, sometimes those who celebrate Hanukkah also enjoy some of the Christmas festivities.
There are also Christians today who also celebrate Hanukkah, and for the same reason as Jews. Christians believe in the same Old Testament as those who are Jewish, so some Christians celebrate Hanukkah because they are simply celebrating the God of miracles that the Jews are celebrating as well.
It is good to know the differences and the similarities between these two holidays since today there can be much confusion on what each holiday stands for. They truly are different holidays that only happen to fall during the winter months of the year.