Tonight is Christmas eve. All too often, woke liberals lump the two together in the politically correct expression “happy holidays.” But the two observances are very different. America is supposed to be a “melting pot,” but one sad thing about each faith’s end of the year holiday is that most Jews do not understand Christmas, and most Christians don’t get Hanukkah. But they should. After all, both faiths are descended from the patriarch Abraham and believe in the “golden rule.” Both Christianity and Judaism believe that Jesus was a nice Jewish boy who went into his father’s business. The only disagreement is what his father’s occupation was.
As Chanukah is over and Christmas is about to start, it’s time for me to explain the differences between them to the people of the opposite faith. Therefore below are 18 differences between Christmas and Chanukah. Why 18? Because 18 is a significant number in Judaism. In Hebrew, the number 18 is represented by the letters that spell out Chai—life. Multiples of this number are considered good luck and are often used in gift-giving. Since this post makes fun of both holidays, I will need good luck.
1. Christmas December 25th, the same day every year. The date is based on the secular solar-based calendar. Hanukkah begins on the 25th of Kislev every year. But that date is tied to the Hebrew LUNAR calendar. The Jewish calendar date of the 25th of Kislev falls on a different day of the secular calendar every year. Most Jews have no idea where Chanukkah falls on the secular calendar until a Gentile friend asks when Chanukah starts. Their question forces us to consult the calendar given to us by the local Jewish Funeral Home. For the funeral home, it’s a great marketing tool. That way, when someone dies in one’s family, the phone number to call is always handy.
BTW the Jews also celebrate December 25th. Why not? It’s a paid day off from work. Usually, as the video below explains, we go to the movies. On the 25th, there are no lines because the Gentiles are doing something else. After we leave the movie theater, we make our annual Christmas pilgrimage to get Chinese food, a traditional Jewish cuisine.
It’s 2020 in the secular calendar, but 4718 in the Chinese calendar and 5781 in the Jewish Calendar. Archeologists and historians still haven’t figured out what the Jews ordered for take-out for the first 1063 years of their existence.
Many Jews may take a break from that long-time Jewish tradition this year because of COVID. For example, my family will be watching the new Wonder Woman movie that will stream on HBO Max beginning Christmas Day. The movie will be supplemented with take-out from a Kosher Chinese restaurant.
2. There is only one way to spell Christmas. No one can decide how to spell Chanukah. The Oxford English Dictionary shows 24 different spellings for Hanukkah (Chanucha, Chanuchah, Hanuca, Hanucka, Chanuca, Chanukah, Chanucca, Chanuccah, Chanuka, Chanukah, Chanukka, Chanukkah, Hanucah, Hanucca, Hanuccah, Hanucha, Hanuckah, Hanuka, Hanukah, Hanukka, Hanukkah, Khanukah, Khanukka, and Khanukkah). I like to use many of them–even in the same post. The reason for the spelling differences is the holiday’s real name is in Hebrew חֲנֻכָּה, and Hebrew can be transliterated into English many ways. We also like the spelling differences because it confuses the Gentiles.
3. Christmas is a major Christian holiday. Chanukah is NOT a major Jewish holiday. Chanukkah is only a big deal in America because Jewish parents wanted their kids to brag about getting gifts like their Christian buddies. But that is a fabrication by Jews in America. Hanukkah isn’t mentioned in the Torah. It was created by Rabbis. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but more significant holidays like Passover Sukkot, and Rosh Hashana, for example, were designated by God. And God outranks the rabbis, which is a fact only some rabbis agree with.
4. Christians (and Jews) Don’t work on Christmas. Regular work schedules apply to Hanukah. Christmas is also a national holiday in the United States; therefore, everybody is off (unless one works at a movie theater or a Chinese restaurant). Unlike the Jewish Holidays in the Torah, Jews are permitted to work. By the way, Here’s a little secret for the Gentiles, if a Jewish employee tells you he/she has to take off for Hannukah (or Purim for that matter), t
hey are full of Shi, I mean full of latkes.
5. Christians purchase and gift ugly sweaters for Christmas. As golf is the game of ugly pants, Christmas is the holiday of ugly sweaters. Jewish mothers and wives would never allow Jewish men we wear tacky sweaters like that in public. “Uch, you are not going out of the house wearing THAT!”
6. Most Christians do not get upset if you wish them a Happy Hannukah, but many Jews and most atheists get upset if you wish them a Merry Christmas. “Happy Holidays” is a stupid PC term. Technically it can refer to July 4th, Thanksgiving, Groundhog Day, or a Satanic holiday. If you are not Christian and somebody wishes you a Merry Christmas, grow up! It’s the thought that counts, and who knows, maybe they will buy you a present.
7. 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 protests about childhood obesity, some have frowned on gelt-giving. Additionally, many Jewish kids are feeling left out because they aren’t getting good stuff like their Christian friends. But here in America, Jewish kids get eight days of presents. Not all of the gifts are stuff they want…some days they get practical presents such as pajamas, underwear, socks, shirts that make you itch when you put them on…or even scholarly Jewish books which look great on their bookshelves.
8. Christmas is about “Peace on Earth,” Chanukah is about a civil war. 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 not just a war against the Syrian-Greek Seleucid Empire and throwing them out of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. It’s about a civil war between the Jews. Judah and the boys were fighting other Jews who had turned away from their faith by combining it with Hellenistic practices. It was the Hellenized Jews who invited the Seleucid army to Invade. The resulting assimilation caused a loss of Jewish faith and tradition. Eventually, it led to laws against practicing Jewish rituals. 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. Which proves have no understanding of the meaning of the holiday. A message to my Gentile friends, you have a lovely holiday enjoy it–but please don’t combine it with my holiday about assimilation. And by the way, they’re not menorahs. They are Chanukiahs (more assimilation).
9. Black Friday sales. Christmas Black Friday sales go on until midnight. Hanukah Black Friday sales end at least an hour before sunset, so Jewish shoppers can get home for Shabbos dinner. Another holiday shopping difference on Black Friday, indeed, during the entire holiday season, Christians pay whatever the price tag reads. Jewish theology teaches us that paying the marked retail price is a mortal sin.
10. Christmas is a time of enormous 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 about gift-giving. My father of blessed memory was a house painter. He used to get two wallets as a promotion Christmas gift from the store he purchased his paint from. Every year my mother would gift wrap each of the wallets, my dad would give one to mom, and mom would give one to dad. The real secret was that we knew what they were doing but didn’t say anything. Why ruin their Hanukkah?
For guys dating the same girl for a long time, Chanukah is much better than Christmas. Some Christian men give their girlfriends engagement rings on Christmas. No self-respecting Jewish woman expects a diamond ring on Hannukah. Jewish women want to double-dip— jewelry on Hanukkah— and the diamond ring another day.
11. Christmas brings enormous electric bills-lights around the outside of the house..the inside, the tree..etc. Trees are sometimes lined with popcorn on a string. But most of the time, there are blinking lights. Some families create beautiful displays outside of their houses, but putting them up can be dangerous.
12. Christmas carols are beautiful because the good ones were written by Jews, Silent Night, Come All Ye Faithful, etc. Most Jews are secretly pleased that many of the beautiful Christmas carols were composed by one of our tribal brethren. My favorite is White Christmas was written by Irving Berlin (born Isaac Bailen). “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and “I’ll be home for Christmas” were also written by Jews. And liberals believe that Jews like Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond sing those Christmas songs beautifully. Note to my Christian friends, It would be nice if, once in a while, a Christian would reciprocate and do a Chanukah album. How come Nat King Cole never sang “Latkes frying in a frying pan?” Where is Dolly Parton’s I’ll Bring Jelly Donuts Home For Chanukah?”
Another issue should be, why the heck didn’t those 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. All we really have is Adam Sandler playing Jewish geography.
13. A home preparing for Christmas smells wonderful. The sweet smell of cookies and cakes baking. Happy people have gathered around in festive moods. A home preparing for Chanukah smells of oil, potatoes, and onions. Part of the story of Chanukkah is the miracle of the one day of oil that lasted for eight days. To remember that we eat oily foods, potato latkes, greasy jelly donuts, etc. During Hanukkah, Jewish homes are full of loud people talking all at once. It’s just like every time Jewish people get together.
14. Christian women have fun baking Christmas cookies. On Chanukah, Jewish women burn their eyes, cut their hands grating potatoes and onions, and then fry them in deep grease to make latkes (potato pancakes). It’s another reminder of the suffering of our people through the ages and another opportunity for a Jewish mother to radiate guilt, “You see what’s happening to me, and just for you?”
15. Christian Parents never withhold gifts to their children during Christmas. Jewish parents have no qualms about withholding a gift on any of the eight nights of Hannukah. When they do withhold a gift, they don’t blame a fat bearded guy in a red suit and a sleigh pulled by reindeer, putting them on a naughty list either (when I was a toddler I thought Santa was an anti-Semite because he skipped the Jewish homes. That was until my parents told me that Santa didn’t exist).
Jewish Parents try to make their kids feel guilty when withholding gifts. “Great! Now I have to wait in a long line to return your Hanukkah gift!” The Catholics claim to have invented guilt, but we Jews learned to market it much better.
16. The Christmas story players have easy to pronounce and spell names such as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. The names in the Chanukkah story are Antiochus, Seleucid, and Matta… whatever. By the way, the Maccabee’s last name was not Maccabee. Maccabee is a nickname meaning hammer and is an anagram for a Hebrew phrase, “Who is like you oh Lord.” But in the end, it doesn’t really matter what their names are. No one can spell their names or pronounce them anyway. Try saying King Antiochus three times fast. On the plus side, even if we don’t know the names of the players in the Chanukah story, it doesn’t matter when we are talking to non-Jews. Everyone knows we can tell our Gentile friends anything about Judaism, and they will believe us as long as we throw in a few guttural “cchh” sounds. That way, we fool them into believing that we are wonderfully versed in Hebrew and Jewish history.
17. In recent years, Christmas has become more and more commercialized. The same holds true for Hannukah. Then again, it would be hard to commercialize the other Jewish holidays. I was in marketing for over 30 years and never figured out how to market a major holiday such as Yom Kippur. Can you imagine a TV Ad? 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 caffeine-withdrawal headache….a guaranteed swell time for you and your family.”
18. Hanukah movies are easier to identify. Christians fight over whether some films are Christmas movies. If you ever want to purposely start an argument, walk into a room full of Christians and ask, “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?” Christmas is a big part of the American culture, so many movies occur during Christmas. Therefore there is a disagreement about whether or not a particular film can be considered a Christmas Movie. Even the film Ted about an oversexed, cigar-smoking, cussing teddy bear, is about a granted Christmas wish (see above). But with Hanukah movies, there is no grey area, perhaps because there are so few Hanukah movies. There’s Adam Sandler’s “Eight Crazy Nights” is a Hanukah Movie, so is “The Hebrew Hammer,” and “The Rugrats Chanukah,” but that’s about it.
One of the biggest questions of Christian theology is whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Three years ago, Jake Tapper reached out to the film’s writer, Steven de Souza, on Twitter and asked him to settle the debate once and for all. According to de Souza, Die Hard really is a Christmas movie, but only “because the studio rejected the Purim draft.”
Yes, because the studio rejected the Purim draft #DieHardIsAChristmasMovie
— Steven E. de Souza (@StevenEdeSouza) December 24, 2017
There you have it. According to the guy who wrote it, Die Hard could have been a Purim movie, but it was rewritten as a Christmas film because the studio rejected that particular concept.
There are other films that are questioned. My friend Ed Morrissey claims the themes of It’s a Wonderful Life may fit better with Easter. You can read his analysis here. I strongly recommend it for both Gentiles and Jews.
Chanukah and Christmas are totally different holidays with totally different meanings, but whichever one you celebrate…I wish you all a joyous holiday surrounded by family and friends. And may God fill the coming year with love, good health, peace, and more than a few laughs. After 2020 we need it more than ever.