Many people often get confused between Hanukkah and Christmas, as the two holidays have so many shared characteristics. They both mark a significant religious event within the same region, and even share a few of their customs and symbols. Understanding the similarities and differences between the two is essential to comprehend why we celebrate them.
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Origin & History
The stories behind the two holidays are very different, although they do draw on intercommon themes of struggle and redemption. Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights, celebrating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a period where it was attacked and defiled by Greek armies. It commemorates the miraculous eight-day supply of oil that miraculously lit the lamp in the Holy Temple that was supposed to last one day.
Christmas, on the other hand, celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. This was originally celebrated from the 25th December as a Christian feast day to commemorate the first time Jesus was presented in the Temple in Jerusalem. Christmas has now become a widely celebrated secular holiday throughout the world, with a more general idea of sharing good will and festive cheer throughout the holiday period.
Timing & Symbolism
Despite their vastly different stories, both Hanukkah and Christmas take place within the same season. Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days starting at the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, usually in December. While Christmas is celebrated on the 25th December each year.
Common Celebratory Acts
Many of the celebratory acts of the two holidays share common themes. Both involve eating sweet treats, giving symbolic gifts, and decorating homes. Jews traditionally celebrate Hanukkah by lighting candles, exchanging gifts, and playing with a spinning top called a dreidel. The lighting of the candles lasts for eight nights and the number of candles used is determined by the principle of add-one: an additional candle is added each night. Christmas also typically involves the lighting of candles, decorating with festive greens and exchanging gifts.
Common Symbols & Customs
The two holidays share some significant symbols and customs, offering a tangible, single point of comparison. The major symbol exchanged at Christmas is the evergreen tree, which is said to evoke feelings of life and hope. In contrast, the most iconic symbol of Hanukkah is the menorah, which is lit up during the eight nights of the festivals. Another common symbol is the star, which is both associated with the Star of Bethlehem as well a symbol of the miracle of Hanukkah.
The combination of symbols and customs shared by the two holidays offer an opportunity to explore and celebrate the same shared ideals of dedication, struggle, and redemption across both religions.
In conclusion, while both Hanukkah and Christmas are fundamentally different holidays, based on diverse religious teachings, they both share a significant overlap of symbolism and customs. This provides us with an opportunity to share and understand a common thread in our celebrations and to recognise and celebrate the diversity between the two religions.
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Last update 2023-11-26. Price and product availability may change.