Difference Between Hanukkah and Christmas (With Table)

While Hanukkah celebrates the Jewish conservation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem as the Savior of the world. These religious celebrations are further distinguished along several other tangents.

Hanukkah vs Christmas

The difference between Hanukkah and Christmas is in terms of which religious group primarily celebrates the festival. Hanukkah is celebrated by the Jewish community, Christmas is celebrated by the Christian community.

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.

Comparison Table Between Hanukkah and Christmas

Parameters of ComparisonHanukkahChristmas
Celebrated ByHanukkah is celebrated by the Jewish community.Christmas is celebrated by the Christian community.
Origin of the FestivalHanukkah 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 CelebrationCelebrations last for eight nights.Celebrations last for one day.
Date of CelebrationThe date of celebration varies according to the Hebrew calendar.Christmas is always celebrated on the 25th of December each year.
Kind of CelebrationThe lighting of candles on the Jewish menorah is the most important ritual in the Hanukkah celebrations.Attending the Christmas mass at the church is considered to be the most important part of the celebration.
Symbols of the FestivalThe Jewish menorah called ‘Hanukkiyah’–used to light the 8 candles- is the most important symbol of Hanukkah.Christmas tree, the nativity scene, 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’ and 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 commemorated by Hanukkah 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 called Mattathias and his 5 sons. Finally, the Temple was freed by the Jews in 165 BC and was successfully rededicated to God.

Every year, this eight-day festival is celebrated on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. Lighting the candles from left to right on the ceremonial menorah- Hanukkiyah– each night of the festival is considered ritualistically necessary.

This is accompanied by special blessings before and after the ceremony as well as 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 the 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. Born through Immaculate Conception, Mary and Joseph were Jesus’ parents on earth.

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 in order 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 are an essential part of Christmas.

Children wait for the Christmas season to receive gifts from Santa Claus. Special delicacies like the Christmas cake, rose cakes, cookies, and gingerbread houses are made for the occasion.

Main Differences Between Hanukkah And Christmas

  1. The main difference between these two widely celebrated religious festivals is in terms of the religious communities that celebrate each. While Hanukkah is celebrated by the Jewish community, Christmas is celebrated by the Christian community.
  2. 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.
  3. Hanukkah and Christmas conspicuously differ in terms of the duration of their celebration. While Christmas is celebrated on one day- 25th December as the day of Christ’s birth- Hanukkah celebrations last for eight nights.
  4. 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 is different each year.
  5. An indispensable element of difference between Hanukkah and Christmas is the kind of celebration each warrants. Hanukkah is celebrated by the lighting of 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.
  6. The Christmas tree, the nativity scene, mistletoe, and Santa Claus are crucial parts of any Christmas celebration. However, the symbols for Hanukkah are quite different. The special Jewish candle menorah is an important symbol for Hanukkah.

Conclusion

Hanukkah and Christmas both represent the season of joy and festivities. They share several similarities like decorating houses and streets with lights, exchanging gifts, and indulging in seasonal delicacies. However, they are also quite pronouncedly different from one another,

While Hanukkah is exclusively celebrated by the Jewish community across the world, Christmas remains a celebration primarily among Christians. The origin of each holiday is also quite different. While Hanukkah honors the rededication of the Jewish Second Temple in Israel, Christmas is celebrated in honor of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Christmas is invariably celebrated on the 25th of December every year, with celebrations lasting for a day. Hanukkah is celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar and hence, the date of its celebration varies each year.

The celebrations for Hanukkah are primarily centered on the lighting of the eight ceremonial candles on the eight nights of the festival. Christmas is centered around attending the specially curated Christmas vigil at the church. The symbols of each festival are also starkly different. While Christmas is incomplete without a Christmas tree, Santa Claus, and a nativity scene, Hanukkah cannot be celebrated without the Jewish menorah candle stand.

References

  1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/0021642670370407
  2. http://ccl-lcj.ca/index.php/ccl-lcj/article/view/3385/2940
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