In the month of December, in countries with considerable Christian and Jewish populations, two holidays can be clearly noticed. Christmas, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, and Hanukkah, celebrating the miracle that took place circa 160 B.C.E. in Jerusalem’s Temple at the time of the Maccabean Revolt.

Christmas as a holiday does not appear in the New Testament because the holiday itself was introduced some time after the events which it commemorates. Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible because the events that took place too happened after the Hebrew Bible was completed. Ironically, while Hanukkah, also known as Feast of Dedication or Festival of Lights, is not found in the Hebrew Bible, it is found in New Testament. In John 10:22 we are told that Jesus went up to Jerusalem and “at that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem.”

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For much of later Jewish history Hanukkah was a marginal holiday and was not extensively celebrated. The reason for this was that the miraculous event it celebrated was overshadowed by the tragedy of the subsequent and utter destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple almost 2000 years ago.

So, how did it happen that Hanukkah has made such a successful come back? One of the answers has to do with the commercialization of Christmas. As Christmas became dominant in its communal display, the Jewish community had to come up with its own alternative to avoid assimilation (to which the magic and beauty of Christmas no doubt contributed). Now, for better or worse, the white and blue colors of Hanukkah compete with, and add to, the traditionally red and green colors of the Western Christmas tradition. Jewish and Christian histories are connected even when they are trying not to be.

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94 COMMENTS

  1. Shalom, friends. I very much welcome your comments, however, those of you are are of the opinion that Christmas is a Pagan holiday (I’ve met many people like that before) I would encourage you to keep your comments until my forthcoming article about this topic (meanwhile perhaps you can read my other post “Is Easter a Pagan Holiday?” (https://israelbiblecenter.com/easter-pagan-holiday/)?

  2. How exciting to know that the Lord sees to it that the Jewish / Christian connection remains before our eyes. The two are a testimony of God’s grace to mankind. He will fulfill His purposes. Shalom, Michael

  3. Shalom friends , I stopped doing Christmas when I read Jeremiah 10 v 3 , also I learnt it’s nimrods birthday December 25th . Yeshua is not born in December as you know , Nimrod is in the face off YAH I believe he is in the spirit off the Antichrist . And when we bow down to pick uo our gifts who are we bowing too? I loved Christmas but now I know it’s a pagan feast and it’s ugly – read what the Romans did on 25 December it is very tearful the history off Christmas is evil.

  4. I heartily agree with Michael Coleman. I only wish that us Christians would have always celebrated Christ’s birth at the more appropriate time of His coming; that is, in early spring. After all, that would be more in keeping with the Scripture account. Shalom, Joe

  5. In my opinion Christmas is the commemoration of Jesus birth and period. If is the right date I doubt. But is the feast more commemorate in all the world.So we have to rejoice Our Savior God. He is the Ligth of the world . The Ligth of Hanukkah about to Shine again in Jerusalem in the New Temple.

  6. Great blog post, Dr. Eli. I agree with Joe that it would be good to celebrate the birth of Christ on a date more closely related to his actual birth. However, living in the Northeastern United States, I’m very thankful that during one of the darkest, coldest, and bleakest periods of the year we’ve set aside a day to celebrate the coming of our Savior. It always gives me something to look forward to as winter takes a firm hold on our region. I only wish we had a similar festival to look forward to in February!

  7. Shalom , Sorry sorry sorry , I hope your forthcoming post is before the 25 off December so we can as believers look up truth on study this subject , before this pagan fest comes We did a study last night all about Yeshua going up to celebrate Hanukkah , and Him saying I AM The light off the world . It’s great to remember the history behind Hanukkah and celebrate . Bless Isreal . Shabbat shalom Yvonne

  8. Shalom , Sorry sorry sorry , I hope your forthcoming post is before the 25 off December so we can as believers look up the truth on chiritmas and study the history ourselves before this pagan fest comes . We meet on Shabbat every Friday in Liverpool to study Torah , last night was all about Yeshua going up to celebrate Hanukkah . He said saying I AM The light off the world . It’s great to remember the history behind Hanukkah and celebrate . Bless Israel forever . Shabbat shalom Yvonne

  9. christmas along with easter are the most important celebrations in the christian calendar they celebrate God jesus and holy spirit the one true God in the form of the trinity, to a lot of us the celebration at /before christmas of channuka is as important as passover is to easter we should honour both the christian and jewish faiths as one leads to the other ginette kelley

  10. Thanks reminding John 10:22. Merry Christmas. Without 164 BC the liberation of Jerusalem@Temple there would be no Christmas- the other name for Ressurection as a new birth (of Jesus) to eternal life – Acts 13:32nn@Ps2:7(today I have begotten/”gegennneka”(Greek) you). Acts was written in 50’s A.D. as St.Paul’s letters long before Gospels of Luke and Matthew (with Jesus’s Birth Stories).

  11. What an awesome topic yet two completely different cultures celebrating the birth of Y’Shua. I don’t celebrate Christmas, however, I do Thank our Creator for His miracles in giving us a new opportunity with our redemption through His only begotten Son. Happy Hanukkah and Shalom

  12. Even though Jesus was born on a différent date and the Romams celibrated the sun god on Dec. 25. I still apreciate the opportunty to share that if Jesus were never born he could have not died for our sins and rise so we could have life. We also open our presents to receive them and in like fassion receive Jesus in our hearts.

  13. The use of December 25 predates the legalization of Christianity in the Fourth century and the resultant adoption of a birth celebration. December 25 was probably picked because of the belief that Yeshua was conceived on the same date of the year as the date of his death/crucifixion. The date of his crucifixion is hard to pin down using the solar calendar, but March 25 was a popular candidate. Nine month from March 25 puts his birth at December 25. The Eastern Church put his birth as January 6, because they calculated his crucifixion to have been on April 6.

  14. Sometimes things are over-discussed & mental opinions override Truth of the HEART, which is what God judges. Motive is His interest. He miraculously provided Christmas for my 5 children numerous times because He knew I used that day to celebrate HIM & acquaint Him with them. I’m a worshipper, and I worship Him, not a tree, or other ‘idol.’ I believe Jesus was born during the FEAST OF TABERNACLES (around 9/15) but when isn’t a good time to celebrate Him. He unites us into ONE NEW MAN, PRAISE GOD for such Love! Amen ❤️

  15. It is a Joy in this season to firstly join with Israel to Re-dedicate ourselves to the Creator and the covenants to which WE have all been called ( 8 candles of Hanukkak ) , then to celebrate Our Saviour’s ( Yeshua) Birth ; these events are Uniting Jews and Gentiles more and more with each generation !!……………….Shalom

  16. Greetings from Australia! Dr Eli, first of all thank you for the articles that you write they are a rea blessing for me, i am learning a lot about your culture and the culture our Saviour grew into, I love your culture and have adopted some of them, after visiting your country in Easter. I wish I could study it more but I lack resources. Great article and looking forward to the Christmas one. The Lord bless you.

  17. I’m a Gentile Christian very involved in the Messianic Jewish community here in the UK. I’m also an active member of an evangelical Anglican church Most of the MJs I know attend both an MJ fellowship and a church, and many of them celebrate both Chanukah & Christmas. We acknowledge that it’s very unlikely that Yeshua was born in December. However, since the Light of the world was probably born during Sukkot (when the Great Menorot are lighted), then that means He was conceived during Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. Good enough reason to celebrate!

  18. The date comes from the light of Hanuka, but John 1 : 11 , ” He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” . I receive Him.

  19. Today I read Psalm 133. I see here unity of brethren compared to the anointing oil consecrating the priest and giving him authority and the blessing of life! I see this together with John 17, prayer of Jesus that we be one as He and the Father are one. The Unity of love between believers even when we sometimes understand things differently is the way to shine the light in the darkness and abundant life He came to bring! I love reading these posts and comments, especially when it is with grace to each other. Shalom to all!

  20. Thank you Dr. Eli for your insightful commentary. Arguing about the specific date that Jesus was born as to celebrate Christmas is not important even to Jesus Himself. Christ would not judge anyone who humbly celebrate His birth on even July 22nd. But Jesus will hold anyone accountable who celebrate His birth in a disgusting manner on the “exact date” He was born. 25th December does not matter but Jesus matters. He is the creator of time and space yet His Glory is above them. To the pure…. Titus 1:15.

  21. Great blog!. Dr Eli, Alot of those “alleged apocrypha” seem very Jewish in their interpretation of culture and traditions . So why wouldn’t 1 Maccabees 2 Chapter and 4th Chapter which tells the story of the feast of Dedication” Hannukah” not be Hebrew? The story seems to correlate with some statements and nuances from Daniel 9 :27, 12 : 47, & Matthew 24 chapter 15-22…kinda like Messiah is warning his disciples with what they had been already taught as Jews ,unlike Greco Roman reculturaliztion of the texts who would not have caught on to reasons for keeping the festival today.

  22. Hello, thank you for your articles. I have heard 3 reasons Christmas is on Dec25 now. 1. Early Christians had philosophical reasons for believing he was conceived on Mar25. Add 9 mos =Dec25, no pagans necessary. http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v 2. In the video “The Star of Bethlehem” Rick Larson has made a great case that the magi followed the star(Jupiter) to the little town of Bethlehem on Dec25 of 2BC. It went retrograde over Bethlehem on that date looking west from the east. 3. calendar approximate of Kislev 25 after 70AD. We may never know. Thank you!

  23. A holiday is celebrated by both those who go to a religious institution and those who do not. What I struggle with is why Jesus was “walking in the temple” (religious institution). I need to see a Shepherd looking for His sheep outside of religion rather than a sheep stumbling onto Jesus at the temple (of course the sheep against all odds beats down adversity to get to the temple ). Your historical context has been helpful. I can now see the Shepherd looking for His sheep everywhere “a marginal holiday and was not extensively celebrated”.

  24. Hi Dr. Eli! I always enjoy the often challenging teachings you give us even those who aren’t students yet. I’ll look for your next article on this topic. Someone mentioned “The Star of Bethlehem” DVD but I was struck by a very short Youtube video by Dr. Michael Heiser, a well known Biblical/Middle Eastern scholar who used the book of Revelation together with a state of the art star system computer program and worked out the constellation stars according to John’s revelation. I think everyone here would be flabbergasted to watch it!! I know I was!!

  25. Hi everyone! This is my very first day here and I am beyond elated to the privilege of sharing and studying the Living Word with all of you. As a granny of 6.1 grandchildren, my standard quip to them is and always will be, “Did you pray about _______? They already know, but it is comforting that in turning aside in prayer, Our Lord leads us in His Ways.

  26. No where in the scriptures does it tell us to celebrate the birthday of Jesus. If it was supposed to be celebrated, I’m sure we would have been told the date.

  27. Thank you Dr Elie for this very enlighten post. As a child I grow up cerebrating Christmas. Even played the part of Mary. But as I got older the Joy I felth was taken out of it. Thanks for showing me that I can still celebrate it and that its liken unto Habakkuk.

  28. Luke 1:35-55 gives clear guidance that Jesus was born around may-June. I have always questioned why it should be put so far apart from his actual date of birth

    • I think we have different definitions of “clear.” I agree that Yeshua was likely not born on December 25, but the actual date was not important to early believers. So trying to determine the date today is quite a matter of speculation.

  29. If someone celebrates Hanukkah, or someone else celebrates Christmas; one thing is important: Christ is preached! It is not about the “Days”, It’s about Him. Whatever day you celebrate, Proclaim the Gospel to others; and this should be done everyday. He came as The Light unto the world. He is Lord and King. To Him we bring the Glory in everything we do, because we do it for Him. Let’s not argue about a day, but focus on Him.

  30. Christmas is the day Gentiles celebrate Jesus’ birth. And yes, sadly, western culture has commercialized it. The only birthday “party” where guests give each other gifts; not to the one whose birthday they are supposedly celebrating…..

    (Yes, I am a Gentile Christian)

  31. According to my research: Yashua was conceived by the Holy Spirit on Chanakkah while Elizabeth was already 6 months pregnant with John the Baptist, who was born 3 months later on Passover, and Yashua was born 9 months later during Tabernacles.

  32. This’s the beauty in the messianic side of Judaism, you can establish how the gospels correlate from one to another i.e. the old to the new. What the Orthodox Jewish people don’t realise is that the miracle that happened to re-dedicate their Holy Temple with that tiny stop of oil, when they were delivered from the Syria/Greek oppression was superseded by a greater miracle “The Virgin Childbirth.” That when we re-dedicate ourselves to the Lord; then our body is His temple (1 Corinthians 6:19), we are also delivered from the oppression and bondage that our lives are encumbered by. Thank-you.

  33. The Lord Jesus wasn’t born on Dec 25; Father God does not go by our calendar but HIS! I believe Christ was born on the Feast of Tabernacles, God came to dwell among us.

  34. Greetings!! The idea that Christmas Saved Hanukkah is rather curious to me. I see it the other way around — that Hanukkah Saved Christmas — because if Hanukkah had not happened, there would be no Christmas to celebrate. The only two people who had celebrated birthdays in the Scriptures were Pharaoh and Herod. Just like Easter, Christmas is a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. In the Early Years of America, Christmas was banned but, regardless of the Christmas Controversy, Christmas is more palatable than Halloween. Happy Holidays!! 🙂

  35. I share what an old monk said A. soloist “if Jesus has been born 1000 times in Bethlehem but not in your heart…. He wants our hearts and souls to transform them into His light and the reunion with our ABBA as it has been in Gan Eden Follow His Mizwa to love each other as He loved us He is the servant and light of the channukia which enlightens the world and the real temple of God and the menorah/sheshina his presence will shine in the world to come- the new Jerusalem I assume this might happen between tabernacles

  36. There is a BIG difference: Jesus’ birth is history, the date doesn’t matter. The chanukkah-story is folklore, a legend only…

  37. The NT reveals that God’s intention is to blend together the Jews and the Gentile and so create one New Man on the earth. Many people are hostile to this plan. However, God’s intention will always prevail, regardless of the opinions of human beings. Abraham was promised two kinds of descendants: those like the sand on the shore, and those like the stars in the sky. These are the earthly people of God and the spiritual people of God. This is why we are seeing this convergence between Christians and Jews — and no one can prevent this convergence…

  38. Personally, I think that if would like to thank God for coming into this world as Emanuel – God with us, the Word becoming flesh, then it doesn’t matter if it happens to be be on the same date of a Pagan festival or a date other than that on which he was born or on the 45th of June or whenever, it’s fine by me and Him. He knows my heart. And by the way, is it wrong for me to refer to the days of the week and months of the year as they honour other gods?

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