Happy holidays, everyone!
As someone who celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas (as of two years ago), I recently got to thinking about the two holidays. While there are some similarities, there are also some big differences.
Thinking about it made me realize that of the two, Hanukkah is easily my favorite. It's been my favorite holiday since I was a little kid. Even when I began celebrating Christmas--and it's a lot of fun, don't get me wrong--Hanukkah just always held a higher place in my heart...and here is why!
Eight days versus one.
A whole month (or two, if you feel the holiday season begins November 1) goes into decorating, prep, gift-buying, holiday music and cheer, all to abruptly end on one day. Whereas with Hanukkah, the holiday is spread over EIGHT WHOLE DAYS. Imagine getting to feel that tingly holiday feeling for eight days straight!
Christmas food is just gingerbread, eggnog, and candy canes. But those foods are bland in comparison to the savoriness of the delicious fried foods of Hanukkah. We got sufganiyot (fried donuts filled with jelly) and latkes (potato pancakes), two of the best foods reserved especially for these eight days. And you can eat these delicious latkes with anything: ketchup, applesauce, even sour cream.
Both holidays allow for everyone to have their own special traditions. For example, my family has a major annual Hanukkah party where everyone comes together, and it's so much fun (and loud, thanks to all the little cousins). But with Christmas, having a tree and gifts is more standard than tradition. With Hanukkah, there are specific traditions carried out by all Jews that have been around for centuries.
The idea that millions of people have the exact same traditions as you may make them seem less special, but if anything, these shared traditions somehow feel even more special. The first tradition is lighting the menorah, to commemorate the miracle of the Hanukkah story, where oil that should only have lasted one day, lasted eight. The second is the special zimmirot, or songs, that are sung during candle-lighting. Yes, Jews have songs for Hanukkah! But they're all in Hebrew, which is why you haven't heard them on the radio. These songs, as well as the holiday commemorate the miracle of Hanukkah and the downfall of the Jews' various enemies who tried to decimate them in the past.
Like with Christmas, Jewish communities will have many events across town to celebrate the holiday with friends, family and community. These events include candlelightings, to fun activities for kids, to school celebrations and even fireworks! These events are some of the best to attend because of the sheer level of community and unity in the air, of everyone coming together to celebrate our Jewish history and this special holiday. Heck, even the White House holds an annual Hanukah party!
Just to clarify, this article is not intended as a diss on Christmas or anyone's personal viewpoints on either holiday. This is all based in my personal opinion, feelings and experiences, and I'm respectful towards anyone who feels differently on this. As I mentioned, I do celebrate and enjoy both holidays, but Hanukkah is a bit more special to me. And now that Hanukkah is nearly over, I'm getting in the Christmas hype! Happy holidays, everyone!