The “Jewish Christmas” Dilemma – Understanding the Significance of Hanukkah

Oftentimes, Hanukkah is associated with the celebration of Christmas. Many believe that Hanukkah and Christmas are two similar celebrations mainly because they are celebrated at almost the same time and because Hanukkah is called the Festival of Light.

Some Jewish parents are tempted to turn Hanukkah into a holiday that’s similar to Christmas. This can lead to confusion and loss of identity. Hanukkah is a meaningful and joyous holiday and we don’t need to twist its celebration to make it into “something like Christmas.”

The best way to differentiate Hanukkah from Christmas is to understand the significance of celebrating it. Hanukkah is celebrated to remind us of the cleansing of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus after Antiochus Epiphanes desolated it thousands of years ago. While Christmas is celebrated because of Jesus’ birth, Hanukkah is observed to remember the generations of Jews who fought to preserve the Jewish religion and culture from external influences. Here are some ideas to guide you in making your Hanukkah celebration more meaningful and to avoid treating the holiday as a Jewish Christmas.

  • Look for resources on celebrating Hanukkah meaningfully. With the advent of the internet, many articles and other readings are readily available. You can also find books and other resources in local bookstores.
  • Talk to your kids about how you are going to celebrate Hanukkah. Explain to them the difference of Christmas and Hanukkah and why it is important to celebrate it following Jewish traditions.
  • As much as possible, minimize giving of gifts. Gift giving tends to twist the holiday’s real essence. Instead of gift giving, focus on doing traditional Hanukkah activities like eating oily foods and playing dreidel.

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