Hanukkah vs. Christmas: The Differences & Similarities

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Both Christmas and Hanukkah are essential religious holidays. They’re celebrated in the winter but by different religious groups. Christians celebrate Christmas in remembrance of the birth of Jesus Christ. In contrast, Hanukkah is celebrated by Jewish people in remembrance and celebration of their freedom after reclaiming their temple of worship from oppressors. Interestingly, these two winter holidays have lots of similarities and differences. Below are a few of them.

Differences

It goes without saying that the Jewish and Christian religions have many similarities since they are said to believe in the same supreme being. However, their differences stem from the controversy of Jesus of Nazareth, whom Christians believe is the son of God. Most Jews disagree with this, hence the segregation. Likewise, both Hanukkah ad Christmas have various differences. We’ve listed the main two below.

One is a big holiday for the religion, and the other isn’t.

Even though Christmas and Hanukkah fall around the same time of the year, the latter isn’t a major holiday of their religion. Hanukkah is just one of many Jewish holidays, and it’s one of the small ones. Jews aren’t mandated to visit the synagogue on this holiday or miss work or school. The celebration is more family-oriented and privately celebrated with exchanged gifts.

On the other hand, Christmas is a major Christian holiday. It’s such a big deal that it’s considered a federal holiday in most Christian nations (including the United States). During this time, gifts with beautiful packaging are exchanged, families come together to celebrate, and churches have special Christmas programs on Christmas day.

One is longer than the other.

Both holidays fall around the same time but last for different periods. Hanukkah is an eight-day holiday with different activities for each day. For every day of the Hanukkah holiday, a lamp on the menorah is lit. Other traditions vary from family to family, but most days, lighting the candles is followed by reading scripture, singing special hymns, or giving alms. Also, Hanukkah doesn’t have a set date and varies from year to year. On the other hand, Christmas is celebrated on just one day, the 25th of December. Even though most people celebrate Christmas for 12 days or longer, the official day for Christmas is the 25th.

Similarities

It’s fair to say that as both traditions are also celebrations, there will be many similarities. We’ve listed a couple below.

Both involve decorations.

On both holidays, families put up festive decorations. On Christmas, it’s normal for people to purchase and set up commercial Christmas trees in their homes. They decorate their big Christmas tree with tinsel, Christmas lights, and ornaments. The decorator may choose to put a star ornament at the top of their Christmas tree, representing the wise men’s northlight to get to Jesus’ manger. The two primary Christmas decoration colors are green and red. The decor isn’t limited to the traditional Christmas tree: People usually have a green garland or wreath at their front door and other things like mistletoe.

Although Hanukkah doesn’t involve a big tree and the decorations aren’t as elaborate as Christmas decor, they’re still quite impressive. Hanukkah’s colors are blue and white, just like the Israeli flag, and the decorations are hinged around their seven-lamp menorah.

Much like most holidays, Christmas and Hanukkah are usually celebrated in the warmth of a family setting. In both religions, families plan ahead of time to travel or visit the family home for these holidays. It has become a tradition. Fortunately, December is considered a holiday season where people can get off work to celebrate in most nations.

Both involve giving gifts.

Coupled with the fact that both Christmas and Hanukkah are celebrated with family, they both have a gift-giving tradition. It doesn’t only involve giving a tangible gift to family members and friends but also strangers. In both religions, it’s normal for people to carry out charitable activities during their holidays.

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