Christmas is not a Jewish holiday. However, many people have began recognizing Christmas as an American holiday, given its immense popularity in the average American's life come December. We are graced with 8 amazing days of Chanukah, in which we celebrate Judah and the Maccabees reclaiming the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. This holiday is celebrated based on the Hebrew calendar, beginning on the eve of Kislev 25 and lasts for a whole 8 days. But most of the time, including this year, Chanukah does not overlap with Christmas, leaving the Jewish people without a holiday to celebrate when the 25th of December comes around. So the question remains: Can Jews celebrate Christmas?
First of all, why would it even be a thought to celebrate another religion's holiday? Well, imagine you are in elementary school, and your whole school has literally "decked the halls" in holiday decorations. Your classmates are all listening to Christmas music, talking about their present lists for Santa, and talking about their HUGE Christmas tree in their living room. Would you be jealous that you can't have this much "fun" because you are Jewish?
This is what I faced during my childhood. I was NEVER ashamed to be Jewish, but I was definitely jealous at times of my friends celebrating what is known as the most festive holiday in America. During Chanukah, we still have Chanukah songs, we still give and receive presents, and most importantly we still get to spend quality time with our family. But, especially as a moody child, it's hard to sit there and not think about what it would be like to celebrate Christmas.
Now to the big ticket item: what do Jews do on December 25th? Here are a few things that you can do during the Christmas holiday…
1. Go out for Chinese Food:
- The Chinese do not celebrate Christmas, so most Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas day. My family has been doing this for many years, and it is a perfect family meal.
2. Go to the Movies:
- Many movie theaters are open on Christmas day, particularly in the afternoon. Christmas is actually one of the most popular days for movie theaters, because most non-Christmas observers typically spend their afternoon watching movies.
3. Go to Work:Work Working GIF by Team Coco - Find & Share on GIPHY
- Jewish people often volunteer to work on Christmas, especially if they work in 24/7 jobs like hospitals or police departments. This allows their Christian co-workers to get the day off, and gives the Jewish worker an extra day off at some other time of the year, when everything isn't closed.
4. Celebrate Chanukah with extended family!Eight Crazy Nights Hanukkah GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
- My family takes full advantage of Christmas eve and Christmas day. Since Chanukah is early in December this year, most of us are busy working or at college to get together during one of the days to celebrate. Therefore, on Christmas eve, my mother's side of the family all get together to celebrate Chanukah, having a big meal and giving presents. We then spend all of Christmas day at the movies and eating Chinese food (#1 and #2).
- While both of these holidays celebrate different events within different religious beliefs, they are celebrated with the same thing...family. Regardless of what you are celebrating, this holiday season can be used as a perfect opportunity to spend time with those close to you. Happy Holidays!