While Hanukkah celebrates the Jewish conservation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem as the world’s Savior. These religious celebrations are further distinguished along several other tangents.
- Hanukkah is a Jewish festival lasting eight days, while Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrated on December 25.
- Hanukkah commemorates the miracle of the oil in the Second Temple, whereas Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
- Hanukkah involves lighting the menorah, and Christmas features a Christmas tree decoration.
Hanukkah vs Christmas
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday commemorating the Holy Temple’s rededication in Jerusalem. It is celebrated with the lighting of a nine-branched menorah, traditional foods, and gifts. Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrated worldwide, with secular traditions such as Santa Claus and presents.
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This significant difference in the celebration of these two religious festivals stems from a significant number of other differences between the two festivals in terms of the original event each commemorates.
|Parameters of Comparison||Hanukkah||Christmas|
|Celebrated By||Hanukkah is celebrated by the Jewish community.||The Christian community celebrates Christmas.|
|Origin of the Festival||Hanukkah honors the rededication of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.||Christmas honors the birth of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world.|
|Duration of Celebration||Celebrations last for eight nights.||Celebrations last for one day.|
|Date of Celebration||The date of celebration varies according to the Hebrew calendar.||Christmas is always celebrated on the 25th of December each year.|
|Kind of Celebration||Lighting candles on the Jewish menorah is the most important ritual in the Hanukkah celebrations.||Attending the Christmas mass at the church is considered the most important part of the celebration.|
|Symbols of the Festival||The Jewish menorah called ‘Hanukkiyah’–used to light the 8 candles- is the most important symbol of Hanukkah.||The Christmas tree, the nativity scene, the mistletoe, and Santa Claus are the most important symbols of the festival.|
What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah is also commonly known as the ‘Jewish festival of lights.’ It is celebrated by Jews all over the world to honor a particular historical event in the trajectory of the religious community. The festival derives its name from the same Hebrew (or Aramaic) word meaning ‘dedication.’
The special event Hanukkah commemorates is the rededication of the second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
Historically under the reign of Antiochus IV, the Second Jewish Temple was desecrated and dedicated to the Greek God Zeus. This led to a rebellion spearheaded by a Jewish man, Mattathias, and his 5 sons.
Finally, the Temple was freed by the Jews in 165 BC and was successfully rededicated to God. This eight-day festival is celebrated every year on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev.
Lighting the candles from left to right on the ceremonial menorah- Hanukkiyah– each festival night is considered ritualistically necessary. Special blessings accompany this before and after the ceremony and a retelling of the Hanukkah story.
It is believed that during the rededication of the Temple, the flame lasted for eight days. Hanukkah is also a time for spreading festive joy by giving and receiving gifts and playing games.
Two special games played during this festive season are ‘dreidel’ and ‘sivivon’. Fried delicacies are consumed during the festival, including potato pancakes called ‘latkes’ and deep-fried doughnuts called ‘sufganiyot.’
What is Christmas?
Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem on the 25th of December. Mary and Joseph were Jesus’ parents on earth, born through Immaculate Conception.
God sent his Messenger- Arch Angel Gabriel – to visit Mary in Nazareth to deliver the news that she was God’s Chosen One. This was the fruition of an already-existent prophecy in the Book of Isaiah.
At the time, Mary was betrothed to Joseph. Jesus was born to Mary in a manger at Bethlehem. As the Son of God, Jesus is believed to be the Redeemer and Savior of humankind.
The birth of Christ is to redeem the world from the bondage of sin. He was God’s Sacrificial Lamb sent to earth to free man from his sins.
By his death and resurrection, humankind was emancipated once again. Christmas is celebrated every year on the 25th of December with a special church vigil, followed by joyous gatherings, gift exchanges, and merriment.
Decorating the Christmas tree with lights and ornaments is essential to Christmas. Children wait for the Christmas season to receive gifts from Santa Claus.
Special delicacies like Christmas cakes, rose cakes, cookies, and gingerbread houses are made for the occasion.
Main Differences Between Hanukkah And Christmas
- The main difference between these two widely celebrated religious festivals is in terms of the religious communities that celebrate each. While the Jewish community celebrates Hanukkah, Christmas is celebrated by the Christian community.
- The origin of each festival differs significantly from the other. While Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ as the Messiah of the world.
- Hanukkah and Christmas conspicuously differ in terms of the duration of their celebration. At the same time, Christmas is celebrated on one day- 25th December, the day of Christ’s birth- Hanukkah celebrations last eight nights.
- Christmas is also invariably celebrated on the 25th of December every year. The date of celebrating the festival never changes. However, Hanukkah is celebrated according to the Hebrew month of Kislev. On the 25th day of this month, Hanukkah celebrations commence. As this calendar is a lunar one, the date differs each year.
- An indispensable element of the difference between Hanukkah and Christmas is the kind of celebration each warrants. Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting a candle on the Jewish menorah called ‘Hanukkiyah’ on each consecutive night; Christmas is celebrated by going to a special Christmas mass- usually a midnight vigil. There is no special service curated for Hanukkah at the synagogue.
- The Christmas tree, the nativity scene, the mistletoe, and Santa Claus are crucial to any Christmas celebration. However, the symbols for Hanukkah are quite different. The special Jewish candle menorah is an important symbol of Hanukkah.
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Chara Yadav holds MBA in Finance. Her goal is to simplify finance-related topics. She has worked in finance for about 25 years. She has held multiple finance and banking classes for business schools and communities. Read more at her bio page.