chanukah and christmas

Jewish tradition often leaves me perplexed. A few years ago, the first night of Chanukah coincided with Thanksgiving. This year Chanukah begins on Christmas Eve. How is that possible?

The Jewish calendar revolves around the lunar cycle. The lunar cycle lasts about 28 days. That is a month in the Jewish calendar. The typical lunar year is 355 days.

To keep the calendar more aligned with the Western secular calendar, the Jewish sages add an extra month every few years. Thus, the secular date of Chanukah changes every year, though it rarely is earlier or later than December.

So is there anything religiously significant about Chanukah and Christmas coinciding this year?

Not really. Some interfaith families will observe both in various ways. But here’s what we can all remember.

We need light in this darkest time of the year. For most of us, December is the darkest month of the year. The days are short and the nights are long.

The lights of Chanukah and Christmas come as a much needed relief and source of celebration. Here’s why we need them.

A Story About Light 

A classic Jewish joke tells of a man looking down at the sidewalk. He keeps walking back and forth and looking down.

A policeman eventually comes up to him and asks what he is doing. He says “I’m looking for my keys. I lost them.”

The policeman then asks, “Where did you drop them?” The man points toward the other side of the street and says “Somewhere over there.”

The incredulous policeman says, “Then why are you looking over here?”

The man replies, “Because over here, the light is better.”

Light My Way

This joke often used by scientists to explain biases in research. The light represents our biases, and we tend to look for ways to confirm them.

But it also reveals a spiritual truth. We seek light in times of darkness. We need light to guide and comfort us.

My hope and prayer is that we can be lights for one another. We can fill our spirits with the light from above, and bring it down to one another in


More from Beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad