Christians in Israel celebrate Christmas, but its festive symbols are not seen much compared to other countries. The reason is because Israel’s main religions are Islam and Judaism. But, many consider Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday, as the Jewish Christmas? Can we say so?
Is Hanukkah the Jewish Christmas?
Hanukkah is a celebration of religious freedom and independence from the nation’s former oppressor. The Syrian Kingdom tried to eliminate the Jewish faith by defiling its Temples and punishing those who practiced it. But, a Jewish group called the Maccabees revolted and won. They rededicated their temple, causing Hanukkah to receive another name, the “Festival of Rededication.”
Moreover, Hannukah is observed by lighting the menorah candles, eating oily foods, telling its history, and playing the dreidel. It is far different from the Christmas holiday, which is observed by festive lights, gift-giving, Christmas services.
But, because the Jewish calendar is lunar-solar, its holidays shift from year to year. It has no exact date. So, Hannukkah usually lands on the American Thanksgiving as the earliest and as late as Christmas time.
During the 19th century, Christmas activities have become a national culture in America than just a pure Christian tradition. So, when a large number of Jewish immigrants came to America, they wished to prove they belonged in the foreign country. They felt pressured, so they participated in the gift-giving. That is why, even today, Hanukkah has become closely associated with Christmas.
Israel Celebrating Christmas
Some towns display the Christmas spirit in Israel, such as Bethlehem, Nazareth, Haifa, and Jaffa. Many tourists decide to stay in the country during the holiday because of its significance to the Christmas story.
As such, the most famous place to go to during Christmas is Bethlehem. There, outstanding and popular services happen on Christmas Eve in Manger Square. If you happen to take your vacation in Israel during the holiday break, then make sure to visit Bethlehem.
Reference: My Jewish Learning