Every year around Christmas, Jewish populations around the world celebrate a holiday called Hanukkah.
What is Hanukkah? Is it on the same day as Christmas?
Hanukkah is an 8 day celebration on the lasting eight days from the 25th day of Kislev. Kislev is a month which occurs in November–December on the Gregorian calendar and is sometimes known as the month of dreams.
Like Easter, Hanukkah doesn’t start on the same date every year. It sometimes, but rarely happens on the exact same day as Christmas. In fact, the next date that Christmas and the beginning of Hanukkah coincide is 2024.
Hanukkah is a celebration of light that commemorates the rededication of the Temple in 165 BC by the Maccabees after it was desecrated by Syrians – making it a much older celebration than modern Christmas. Families light one candle on the first day, two on the second (and so on) after sundown during the eight days of Hanukkah while reciting prayers and singing songs. Hanukkah is considered one of the less important holidays in the Jewish culture.
Should You Wish Your Jewish Friends A Happy Hanukkah?
Absolutely! You can simply wish them a Happy Hanukkah in English, or you can really go for it and say chag sameach (pronounced khag sah–meh-ahkh), which means “happy holiday.”
Another Hanukkah greeting is chag urim sameach ( khag oo-reem sah–meh-ahkh), which translates to “happy festival of lights.”
What are the traditions of Hanukkah? Are they the same as Christmas?
Well not exactly. To start, giving presents is not a central theme for Hanukkah. While some families do give gifts, the main traditions are the lighting of the candles, with certain prayers, music and fried foods such as latkes.
What is Chrismukkah?
Chrismukkah was a funny reference in the TV show “The OC” in 2003, to describe the blending of celebrations in a mixed Jewish and non-Jewish family. Interestingly, this cultural blend between Hanukkah and Christmas first dates back to 19th century Germany and Austria. In German it is called Weihnukka, a combination of the words “Weihnachten” (Christmas) and “Hanukkah”. This just illustrates how long Jewish culture has intermingled with Christian (and other religions/cultures) throughout history.
The History Of Jewish Immigrants in the US
Jewish immigrants have been coming to the United States since pre-colonial times. With only 16 million Jews in the world, 6 million live in the US. Yet the Jewish population in the US is only just over 2%.
Early Jewish communities were primarily Sephardi (Jews of Spanish and Portuguese descent and of their New World colonies or Italianate) composed of immigrants from Brazil, Amsterdam, or England.
Later on, after the Holocaust, many Jews arrived from Europe and Russia.
Famous American Jews
Jewish people represent all walks of life, and colours of skin. There are Black Jews, Asian Jews, Sub-Saharan Jews . . . here are some famous American Jews:
- Albert Einstein
- Jonas Salk
- Bob Dylan
- Irving Berlin
- Gloria Steinem
- Stan Lee
- Elizabeth Taylor
- Sandy Koufax
- Saoul Mamby
- Daveed Diggs
From our Immigration Law Office, we wish you a very Happy Hanukkah.
Chag Urim Sameach!