Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Mel Pearlman

The lights of Chanukah and Christmas


December 25, 2020

In past years I have written about the dichotomy between Chanukah and Christmas in terms of their intersectionality and convergence in secular terms; even though not related at all in terms of religious significance and observance.

This intersectionality is created by the fact both holidays fall very closely in the month of December and in some years actually overlap. This year the eight days of Chanukah, based on the Hebrew calendar, occurred from Thursday evening, Dec. 10th through Friday, Dec. 18th. While the Christmas season pretty much begins immediately after Thanksgiving and lasts through New Year’s day.

Although there are many sources regarding the origin of Christmas lights, the consensus is the tradition emerged from the custom in Rome of celebrating the winter solstice on Dec. 25th. The holiday was marked by gift giving, candle lighting, singing and decorating houses. These traditions were carried over when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion and formally declared the holiday as Christmas.

Contemporaneously, with the advent of electricity and now increased lighting technology, Christmas light displays create beauty for people of all faiths to admire and appreciate, while at the same time adhering to their own respective religious beliefs and traditions.

Chanukah became a Jewish holiday many centuries before the Romans embraced Christianity. The holiday commemorates the Jewish victory over the Greeks who tried to eliminate Jewish law and religion in biblical Israel; and which established religious freedom as a universal right.

The symbol of this victory was the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the lighting of the Temple Menorah with a small amount of oil expected to last one night, but miraculously lasted eight nights.

Chanukah became known as the Jewish Festival of Lights and the tradition emerged, ordained by rabbinical law, to light menorahs at home and in public, adding an additional candle each night to increase the brightness of the menorah and to remember “the miracle that occurred there [Jerusalem].”

The increasing brightness of the lights emanating from the menorah each night depicts the ever-increasing miracle as the decreasing amount of oil continued to sustain the lights of the Temple Menorah.

With the beauty of the seasonal lights of Chanukah and Christmas, let us appreciate the blessings of liberty which allow us to celebrate our respective traditions and beliefs in our own way, respectful of our fellow Americans of a different faith, race, color, and culture and other differences, always remembering that the Divine Presence through nature created us all and gave us the ultimate gift of life.

With that in mind, let me wish all my readers of every faith a Joyous Holiday Season and may the bright lights of Chanukah and Christmas usher in a New Year of victory over the Covid-19 pandemic, a revival of our spiritual and economic well-being and a rebirth of our humanity and respect for all our citizens with whom we share a common destiny.

If you wish to comment or respond you can reach me at melpearlman322@gmail.com. Please do so in a rational, thoughtful, respectful and civil manner.

Mel Pearlman holds B.S. & M.S. degrees in physics as well as a J.D. degree and initially came to Florida in 1966 to work on the Gemini and Apollo space programs. He has practiced law in Central Florida since 1972. He has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando; was a charter board member, first vice president and pro-bono legal counsel of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, as well as holding many other community leadership positions.


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