Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas v. Chanukah; All You Need To Know

Now that the holidays are over, I think it's a good time to clear up the confusion that hits all of us during these winter holidays. Everyone wishes everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Holidays or whatever it is that makes your December festive. But, there are so many of us that are so confused by the difference between Chanukah and Christmas. Most people understand that Chanukah is not the Jewish equivalent of Christmas, but beyond that, it's total confusion and curiosity on the part of my Christian friends. I posted this back in 2005, it came to me in an email back then and I thought it a great time to bring it back to life.

Here is the difference between Chanukah and Christmas, from a strictly Jewish perspective:

Christmas v. Chanukah

1. Christmas is one day, same day every year, December 25. Jews also love December 25th. It's another paid day off work. We go to movies and out for Chinese food and Israeli dancing.

Chanukah is 8 days. It starts the evening of the 24th of Kislev, whenever that falls. No one is ever sure. Jews never know until a non-Jewish friend asks when Chanukah starts, forcing us to consult a calendar so we don't look like idiots. We all have the same calendar, provided free with a donation from the World Jewish Congress, the kosher butcher, or the local Sinai Memorial Chapel (especially in Florida) or other Jewish funeral home. Now we can look it up online. But still, we never know when Chanukah starts.

2. Christmas is a major holiday. Chanukah is a minor holiday with the same theme as most Jewish holidays. They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat.

3. Christians get wonderful presents such as jewelry, perfume, stereos... Jews get practical presents such as underwear, socks, or the collected works of the Rambam, which looks impressive on the bookshelf.

4. There is only one way to spell Christmas. No one can decide how to spell Chanukah, Chanukkah, Chanukka, Channukah, Hanukah, Hannukah, etc.

5. Christmas is a time of great pressure for husbands and boyfriends. Their partners expect special gifts. Jewish men are relieved of that burden. No one expects a diamond ring on Chanukah.

6. Christmas brings enormous electric bills. Candles are used for Chanukah. Not only are we spared enormous electric bills, but we get to feel good about not contributing to the energy crisis.

7. Christmas carols are beautiful...Silent Night, Come All Ye Faithful.... Chanukah songs are about dreidels made from clay or having a party and dancing the hora. Of course, we are secretly pleased that many of the beautiful carols were composed and written by our tribal brethren. And don't Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond sing them beautifully?

8. A home preparing for Christmas smells wonderful. The sweet smell of cookies and cakes baking. Happy people are gathered around in festive moods. A home preparing for Chanukah smells of oil, potatoes, and onions. The home, as always, is full of loud people all talking at once.

9. Christian women have fun baking Christmas cookies. Jewish women burn their eyes and cut their hands grating potatoes and onions for latkas on Chanukah. Another reminder of our suffering through the ages.

10. Parents deliver to their children during Christmas. Jewish parents have no qualms about withholding a gift on any of the eight nights.

11. The players in the Christmas story have easy to pronounce names such as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. The players in the Chanukah story are Antiochus, Judah Maccabee, and Matta whatever. No one can spell them or pronounce them. On the plus side, we can tell our friends anything and they believe we are wonderfully versed in our history.

12. Many Christians believe in the virgin birth. Jews think,"Yossela, Bubela, snap out of it. Your woman is pregnant, you didn't sleep with her, and now you want to blame G-d? Here's the number of my shrink."

13. In recent years, Christmas has become more and more commercialized. The same holds true for Chanukah, even though it is a minor holiday. It makes sense. How could we market a major holiday such as Yom Kippur? Forget about celebrating. Think observing. Come to synagogue, starve yourself for 27 hours, become one with your dehydrated soul, beat your chest, confess your sins, a guaranteed good time for you and your family. Tickets a mere $200 per person. Better stick with Chanukah!

I hope this helps.


Teryl Magee said...

Lee, ROFL! Great post...will have to share this with my Jewish father.

Danielle Abernethy said...

I glossed over some of it with my niece. She was asking since we have a lot of Jewish friends now that we moved to Florida. :-) Happy Chanukah Lee!

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! What a wonderful description! "They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat." Yes! We non-Jews are so envious of the simplicity! Our holidays take a whole lot more explanation. Thank you for clearing up the differences. And I'm so relieved that there are so many ways to spell Chanukah correctly!

Lori Feldman said...

VERY funny! Just had oil splatter all over my shirt...

loonyhiker said...

This was so great! The calendar is issue is so much like Chinese New Years too!

Anonymous said...


Very funny! I come from a family whose members are Jewish and Christian. Just the other day some of the littler cousins were taking a survey of who was Jewish and who was Christian. It is easy to get confused as over the years we celebrate/observe with each other many special days, Chanukkah, Christmas, Passover, Easter, Purim and others.

Anne Truger said...

Hysterical Lee! My husband Lee is Jewish and we celebrate both. Our annual tree trimming party is attended by mostly our Jewish friends so celebrate both on that night regardless of the date : )

I can't wait to share this. Happy Hannukah!!

~Anne T

Kymberli Mulford said...

One of the best holiday posts I have read this season. My many friends who celebrate both holidays will enjoy this even more than I did. Happy Holidays to you, Lee!

Bonnie said...

Thanks for the great post, Lee. I just emailed the link to my half-Jewish daughters. Every December we enjoy blending my Christian heritage with many of their father's Jewish traditions. The advent wreath on my parent's dining room table and "Barukh ata Adonai" while lighting the menorah! Potato pancakes with applesauce – fudge and cinnamon candy canes. Life is good!

Tim said...

Lee, thanks for clearing this up! I think the Jewish holiday sounds more attractive. I may start celebrating Chanukah from now on. No pressure to buy gifts. No big light bill. And lots and lots of good food!

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Lee. By the time I got to number eleven, I was glad my son played the shepherd's father in our church play. He might have struggled with some of those Jewish names.