Reindeer and Latkes: Aren’t the Winter Holidays Suspiciously Similar?

Why Hanukkah Is Not 'Christmas For the Jews'

Rabbi David Fohrman
Rabbi David Fohrman

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Do you ever feel uncomfortable when Hanukkah gets bunched together with all the other “winter holidays”? When people talk about Hanukkah almost as if it’s just the Jewish version of Christmas? Isn’t this kind of cultural melding exactly what the Maccabees were fighting against?

Well, it turns out that this isn’t just a modern misunderstanding. For thousands of years, people have noticed the similarities between Hanukkah and other “winter festivals.” And surprisingly, the Talmud itself seems to portray Hanukkah in a very similar vein to – ready for this? – an ancient pagan winter festival. Yeah, we know, it sounds crazy, but there’s an eerie and undeniable resemblance between those ancient rituals and our beloved holiday. 

So what are we to make of this? Join Rabbi Fohrman as he confronts these difficult questions head-on. Through an in-depth analysis of two Talmudic passages, Rabbi Fohrman leads us on a journey to uncover the ancient roots of Hanukkah. By exploring the similarities and differences between the pagan winter solstice and the celebration of Hanukkah, we can come to understand what the unique quality of Hanukkah really is, and get a definitive answer to the question: Is Hanukkah just the Jewish Christmas? (Spoiler alert: the answer is a resounding “no”...)