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Difference Between Hanukkah and Christmas

Difference Between Hanukkah and Christmas

Topics about religion has been really a talked about subject for years. Some even consider it as taboo in certain cultures. Anyhow, religion brings people together especially in their own special occasions. In connection to that, two of the world’s most famous religious celebrations are Christmas and Hanukkah. What do these two events convey in the society, and how do they differ from each other?

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights, but it is actually a Jewish word that means dedication. Therefore, this word is used to name the Jewish celebration to commemorate the day when the second temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem in the 160 BC before the birth of Jesus Christ. This was also the time when the Maccabean Jews acquired their power over Jerusalem from the Seleucids for the second time.

When does Hanukkah happen?

Hanukkah is an eight-day event that happens on the 25th of the Kislev which takes place at a time almost as close as December. The Jews use the lunar calendar which means their dates are based on the moon. In the Jewish calendar, Kislev usually occurs during the last week of November to December.

What happens during Hanukkah?

Candle lighting in a hanukkiyah is done for eight straight nights during the celebration of Hanukkah. This ‘hanukkiyah’ is a particular candelabra known to Jews as menorah. Apart from these, the Jews also have a special candle identified as a servant candle or ‘shammash’ which they utilize to light the eight candles. Oftentimes, this ninth candle called shammash is settled higher and in the middle of the rest of the candles.

What is Christmas?

Christmas actually means Christ’s mass which is a preaching spoken during this affair. With that, Christmas has become an annual event celebrated by every Christian in the world to remember the birth of God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ. The Old Testament has prophesied His coming as the promised Messiah of God for the salvation of His people from sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

When does Christmas happen?

Christians from different parts of the world celebrate Christmas during 25th of December. This date is believed to be the time when pagans were converted to Christianity. Scholars have also claimed to calculate this date as nine months apart from that period when the Archangel Gabriel proclaimed to Mary that she would conceive the Son of God through virgin birth or immaculate conception.

What happens during Christmas?

Although Christmas is a Christian celebration, it is usually associated with the lighting of Christmas tree and gift-giving through the iconic Santa Claus. All these are not really related to religion. In some culture, people go to church at dawn for nine consecutive days usually from the 16th to the 25th of December for their prayers to be granted. The 24th of December is called Christmas Eve where Christians gather with their loved ones in a feast to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Difference Between Hanukkah and Christmas-1

What are the possible similarities of Hanukkah and Christmas?

Hanukkah and Christmas are both religious celebrations of the Jews and Christians respectively , but in what way do they somehow become related with each other?

  • Light:Both Hanukkah and Christmas incorporate the use of light in their celebrations. The Jews light their candles in the special menorah during Hanukkah, while the Christians light their decorative tree during Christmas.
  • Date:The Hanukkah of the Jews falls on the 25th of Kislev and the Christmas of the Christians happens on the 25th of December. These two events overlap with each other somehow since Kislev occurs almost close to the month of December.
  • Season of Joy:Hanukkah and Christmas are both a time of generous hearts when everyone gets to give and receive some special People who celebrate these occasions also play some games for enjoyment and togetherness.

What are the main differences of Hannukah and Christmas?

Now that the definitions and similarities of Hanukkah and Christmas have been discussed, it’s time to hash out the instances that make them different from each other.

  • History of Celebration:The book of Maccabees states that Judea was a region of the Kingdom of Ptolemy until 200 BC. When the Battle of Panium happened, King Antiochus III the Great of Syria thwarted King Ptolemy V Epiphanes of Egypt. By then, the Seleucid Empire of Syria has captured Judea.

    When Antiochus IV Epiphanes invaded Judea in the year 175 BC, he brought their land to ruins and ransacked their place of worship. He also destroyed the Second Temple and regulated the construction of an altar dedicated to Zeus along with the prohibition of the practices of Judaism.

    A Jewish priest named Mattathias, together with his five sons, gave rise to a revolt against Antiochus IV. This rebellion prospered by the year 165 BC and the Second Temple was freed, while the altar dedicated for Zeus was demolished.

    During the re-dedication of the Second Temple, the Jews lighted their traditional candle called the Menorah with a pure olive oil marked with the High Priest’s seal which lasted for eight days. Because of that, Hanukkah includes the eight-day candle-lighting custom in honor of the liberation of the Second Temple.

    On the other hand, Christmas is a celebration to remember the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God born to his Nazarene parents, Joseph and Mary, through virgin conception.

    According to the Gospel of Luke, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth to Mary who was pledged to marry Joseph. She has found favor with God and was chosen to give birth to the Son of the Most High, Jesus Christ which was foretold in the book of the Prophet Isaiah in the 7th chapter verses 10 to 25; and was fulfilled in the book of Luke in the 2nd chapter verses 1 to 21.

    The Bible states that Jesus Christ was born in the small town of Bethlehem near Jerusalem in Judea. Mary gave birth to Jesus in a manger, and a sign for His arrival in the world was given through a luminous star which became a guide for the shepherds and wise men who came to worship Him and to offer him presents.

    The Nativity scene in a manger of Bethlehem has then become a tradition that is oftentimes related to the Christmas season. The gesture of the wise men who gave gifts for Jesus Christ has also been associated with the gift-giving tradition of the present times. Despite all that, the Bible says that the purpose of Christ’s birth is to save God’s people from the bondage of sin through His death and resurrection; and that He is the greatest gift of God to humanity.

  • Origin of Celebration: 

    As mentioned in the history of both celebrations, Hanukkah originally came from Jerusalem for the consecration of the Second Temple; while Christmas is from Bethlehem for the birth of the Son of God and Savior Jesus Christ.

  • Purpose of Celebration: 

    The purpose of Hanukkah is to celebrate the re-dedication of the Holy Temple which is actually the Second Temple in Jerusalem after the invasion of Antiochus IV; while Christmas, on the other hand, is to celebrate the day God has given His beloved Son Jesus Christ to the world that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life according to the Gospel of John.

  • Scope of Celebration: 

    Hanukkah is celebrated by the Jewish people, while Christmas is celebrated by the Christians. Hanukkah is only limited to the Jews, while Christmas is commemorated by almost every Christian in the whole world.

  • Date of Celebration: 

    The first celebration of Hanukkah occurred during the second century BC in Jerusalem. That means Hanukkah happened way before the birth of Christ which initiated the festivity of Christmas.In the present time, Hanukkah and Christmas may have nearly the same date of celebration, but Hannukah’s eight nights of commemoration starts on the 25th of Kislev which is in accordance to the Jewish lunar calendar. Meanwhile, Christmas starts as early as September and culminates on the 25th of December based on the Western’s Gregorian calendar.

  • Observances: 

    Hanukkah and Christmas are both a season of joy and celebration over food, gifts and togetherness but people who celebrate it vary on their ceremonial activities.Hanukkah is observed through a candle-lighting custom in a special menorah for eight straight days. This annual affair is not complete without the traditional potato pancakes or the “latkes” and the deep fried doughnuts or the “sufganiyot.” This time of the year also includes their famous game called “sivivon”.

    On the other hand, Christmas is observed through the symbolic Christmas Tree with a star on top of it. Families also gather for the Noche Buena or the Christmas Eve at exactly 12 in the midnight over the traditional ham, queso de bola or cheese, wine and more food on the table.


  • Decorations and Representations: 

    Hanukkah has only one symbol for the celebration, and it is the special menorah with eight candles which is to be lighted for eight days; while Christmas has a lot of decorations such as the Christmas tree, lights, mistletoe, and even Santa Claus and more; but the most popular and appropriate symbol for Christmas is the Nativity Scene of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.


All in all, Hanukkah is dedicated to the time when the Jews regained their control over the Second Temple in Jerusalem. This event is all about the rebellion against an invasion that happened years before Christ was born. The Jews celebrate Hanukkah every November or December on the 25th of Kislev by lighting their candles in a special menorah for eight days to honor the liberation of the Holy Temple.

Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus Christ who was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger in the town of Bethlehem. This was a very humbling scene for the birth of the Son of the Most High who would then save the world from their sins. The most popular representation of this celebration is the Nativity scene, but it has become commercialized as years went by and has included other decorations such as the iconic Christmas tree and more. Many Christians celebrate Christmas each year.

Table of Summary

Differences Hanukkah Christmas
History Mattathias and his five sons organized a revolution against Antiochus IV. When they succeeded, they rededicated the Second Temple in Jerusalem abused by the invaders in 165 BC. That time, they lighted a menorah which lasted for eight days. God called Mary to bring forth the Son of the Most High in this world. Jesus Christ was born in a manger and He was visited by the shepherds and wise men with the guidance of the angels through a bright star. They gave Him gifts and worshiped Him.
Origin This celebration began in Jerusalem. This celebration began in Bethlehem, Judea.
Purpose The purpose of this celebration is to commemorate the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The purpose of this celebration is to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Scope This is celebrated by the Jews. This is celebrated by the Christians.
Date This celebration happens on the 25th of Kislev (November or December) based on the Jewish lunar calendar. This celebration happens on the 25th of December based on the Western Gregorian calendar.
Observances This celebration is observed through a candle-lighting custom in a special menorah. This celebration is observed through Christmas Tree lighting and a feast done on Christmas Eve.
Representations This celebration is represented by the eight candles on a special menorah or candelabra. This celebration is represented by the Nativity Scene of Christ’s birth. Most Christians also use some decorations such as Christmas tree, lights and more to represent this.

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1 Comment

  1. This is very helpful. Thanks a lot

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References :

[0]Luke. “The Birth of Jesus Foretold.” The Holy Bible, New International Version. Michigan, United States of America: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973. Print.



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