Most Jews do not understand Christmas...and most Christians don't get Hanukkah... Since Hanukkah starts Tuesday night December 16th, its time to explain the difference between the two. From now on if anyone asks you what the difference is between Christmas and Chanukah you will know what and how to answer!
1. Christmas is one day, same day every year, December 25. Jews also celebrate December 25th...it's a paid day off work. We go to movies (there are no lines) and then make their annual Christmas pilgrimage to get Chinese food (a traditional Jewish food). Chanukah is 8 days. It starts the evening of the 24th of Kislev, whenever that falls. Most Jews never know when that day falls until a non-Jewish friend asks when Chanukah starts, forcing us to consult a calendar provided free from the kosher butcher, or the local Jewish Funeral Home.
2. Christmas is a major Christian holiday. Chanukah is a minor Jewish holiday. It isn't mentioned in the Tanach (Jewish scriptures). It was a holiday created by Rabbis, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but the really big holidays are were given to us by God. And God outranks the rabbis. The books of Maccabees aren't even part of the Jewish canon (because the Maccabees broke tradition and became the King and the high Priests). The Books of the Maccabees are part of the Christian bible. Once the Jews regained Jerusalem and the Temple, Maccabee family (the Hasmoneans) took over and became both the Kings and the Priests, a biblical no-no which some people say eventually lead to the destruction of the second Temple. Before you liberals start claiming biblical proof of separation of church and state, the reason for the biblical separation wasn't a fear of religious influence on govt., but the possibility of a corrupt government's influence on religion. God knew that governments could become corrupt and the plan was for an incorruptible Priesthood was supposed to keep the politicians in line.
3. Christians (and Jews) Don't work on Christmas, Regular work schedules apply to Hanukah. Christmas is also a national holiday in the United States everybody is off. Because Hanukkah is a minor holiday work is permitted. Here's a little secret for the non-Jews if a Jewish employee tells you they have to take off for Chankkah (or Purim for that matter) they are full of
4. Christians buy and gift ugly sweaters for Christmas. Just like golf is the game of ugly pants, Christmas is the holiday of ugly sweaters. Jewish mothers and wives would never let us wear something that tacky. "Uch you are not going out of the house wearing THAT!"
5. Most Christians do not get upset if you wish them a Happy Hannukah, many Jews get upset if you wish them a Merry Christmas. "Happy Holidays" is a stupid PC term. Technically it can refer to July 4th or a Satanic holiday. If you are not Christian and somebody wishes you a Merry Christmas, grow up! It's the thought that counts.
6. Christians get wonderful presents such as jewelry, perfume, stereos. The traditional Jewish gift is Chanukah Gelt (coins made from chocolate). Since the increase of type two diabetes and the protests about childhood obesity, many Jewish kids are feeling left out because they aren't getting good stuff like their Christian friends, here in America Jewish kids get eight days of presents. Not all of the presents are stuff they want...some days they get practical presents such as pajamas, underwear, socks, and a scholarly Jewish books (which look great on their book shelves).
7. There is only one way to spell Christmas. No one can decide how to spell Chanukah, Chanukkah, Chanukka, Channukah, Hanukah, Hannukah, etc. I like to use them all--even in the same post.
8. Christmas is about "Peace on Earth," Chanukah is about a civil war against assimilation. Peace on Earth is a big theme of Christmas. Everybody even non-Christians know this. It says it in almost all the Christmas carols. Chanukah is about a civil war against assimilation. The real Chanukkah story is about a civil war amongst the Jews. Judah Maccabee and the boys were fighting other Jews who had turned away from their faith by combining it with Greek/Hellenistic practices. The resulting assimilation caused a loss of Jewish faith and tradition, and finally laws against practicing Jewish ritual. Sadly while Chanukah is a holiday about Jews fighting against assimilation, some ACLU-progressive-liberal types would have us celebrate it by assimilating "Menorahs" in nativity scenes, or putting trees in their homes have no understanding of the meaning of the holiday.
9. Black Friday sales. Christmas Black Friday sales go on till midnight. Hanukah Black Friday sales end at least an hour before sunset so Jewish shoppers can get home for Shabbos dinner.
10. Christmas is a time of great pressure for husbands and boyfriends. Their partners expect special gifts. Jewish men are relieved of that burden on Hanukah. Adults give each other cheap gifts just to teach the kids gift about giving. My father was a painter. He used to get two wallets as gifts from the store he used to purchase supplies from. Every year my mother would wrap up the wallets, my dad would give one to mom and mom would give one to dad (we knew what they were doing but didn't say anything). Even better, for guys dating the same girl for a long time, Chanukah is much better, no Jewish woman expects a diamond ring on Hannukah no, they want Jewelry on Hanukkah and the diamond ring another day.
11. Christmas brings enormous electric bills-lights around the outside of the house..the inside, on the tree..etc. Trees are sometimes lined with popcorn on a string. Hanukkah is a green holiday, it uses candles or oil. Not only are we spared enormous electric bills, but we get to feel good about not contributing to the energy crisis. We don't give coal to the bad kids, it might make a mess of the carpet and the cleaning girl doesn't come till next week. And as for the popcorn and candy canes on trees; waste food, are you kidding? There are children starving in Africa.
12. Christmas carols are beautiful...Silent Night, Come All Ye Faithful.... Of course, we are secretly pleased that many of the beautiful carols were composed and written by our tribal brethren, like White Christmas written by Irving (Isaac) Berlin. "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire," and "I'll be home for Christmas" were written by Jews also. Jews like Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond sing those Christmas songs beautifully? And what did these Jewish songwriters write for their own people? BO-ring! Most Chanukkah songs are about dreidels made from clay or having a party and dancing the hora. And God-forbid a famous Jewish pop singer record some Hanukkah song. But we do have Adam Sandler playing Jewish geography.
13. 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. During Hanukkah (as well as every time Jews get together) every Jewish home is supposed to be full of loud people all talking at once.
14. Christian women have fun baking Christmas cookies. Jewish women burn their eyes and cut their hands grating potatoes and onions for latkas (potato pancakes) on Chanukah. It's another reminder of the suffering of our people through the ages, and another opportunity for Jewish mother to radiate guilt "You see what's happening to me...and just for you?"
15. Parents never withhold gifts to their children during Christmas. Jewish parents have no qualms about withholding a gift on any of the eight nights Hannukah, and they don't blame a fat guy in a red suit and a sleigh pulled by reindeer either. Jewish parents take credit for their children's suffering just to remind them who is boss, "That's it I am returning your Chanukah toys!" They will also find a way to make the kids feel guilty about it. "Great! Now I have to wait on a long line to return you Hanukkah gift!" Remember it's the Catholics who invented guilt, but the Jews learned to market it much better.
16. The players in the Christmas story have easy to pronounce and spell names such as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. The names in the Chanukka story are Antiochus , Judah Maccabee, and Matta whatever. By the way the Maccabee's last name was not Maccabee, the word means hammer and is an anagram for a Hebrew phrase, "Who is like you oh Lord." It doesn't really matter what their names are, no one can spell it or pronounce them anyway. On the plus side, we can tell our Gentile friends anything with a lot of guttural cchh sounds and they will believe we are wonderfully versed in Jewish history.
17. In recent years, Christmas has become more and more commercialized. The same holds true for Hannukah, even though it is a minor holiday. But it kind of makes sense. I have been in marketing for over 30 years and still haven't figured out how to market a major holiday such as Yom Kippur. No food...music is somber.... "Hey everybody...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."
18. Chanukah Starts at sundown Tuesday December 15th nine days before Christmas.
Whichever one you celebrate...I wish you all a joyous holiday surrounded family and friends. And may the coming year be filled with love and good health.
Chag Chankukah Samayach/Merry Christmas!!
And a Happy New Year