Hanukkah For Dummies: Here’s How To Explain It To Your Non-Jewish Friends

Many non-Jewish folks out there are unfamiliar with Hanukkah and have no idea what makes it different than the average Christmas celebration.

While it does take place around the same time of year as Christmas, it’s actually very different. Let’s take a look at the basics!

Hanukkah Has Nothing To Do With The Birth Of Christ

The fact that Hanukkah has nothing to do with Jesus is probably common sense for most people, but that’s one of the biggest differences between the two celebrations.

Christmas has historically been celebrated as the birth of Christ, while Hanukkah has a very different and thrilling origin story.

When the Seleucid Empire came to power around 160 BC, the Jews were banned from carrying out any religious festivities or traditions.


A group of badass Jewish warriors called the Maccabees revolted and took back control of Judea. They subsequently rededicated the Holy Temple to Jewish worship and Hanukkah is a commemoration of this conquest.

The Miraculous Menorah

Hanukkah is observed for eight days and nights. It can take place anytime between November and late December since it follows the Hebrew calendar.

Also called the Festival of Lights, Jews commemorate each day of Hanukkah by lighting one of nine candles on a candelabrum called a menorah.


Stories have it that upon the Maccabees’ reclamation of the Holy Temple, they lit the menorah. It burned for a miraculous eight days and nights, despite only having enough oil for one day. This is why the celebration of Hanukkah lasts for eight days and nights.

Spin The Dreidel & Eat Some Latke

Just like how Christmas has fun traditions like mistletoe and stockings, Hanukkah has a number of activities that Jewish people look forward to every year.


The oft-mentioned dreidel is a four-sided top that children commonly play with, hence the popular term, “spin the dreidel.”

Hanukkah shares a tradition of delicious food like Christmas with snacks aplenty, including doughnuts and latkes, a potato-based pancake.

Next time you’re talking to a Jewish person, you can look cool and show off your Hanukkah knowledge with some of these facts!

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