Hanukkah and Kwanzaa Are Not Just Variations of Christmas


Anabella Nutcher (she/her), Staff Writer

Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are three major holidays in the United States that are celebrated in December, and everyone seems to think Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are just different variations of Christmas. This is a common misconception as they each have their own traditions and origins and aren’t associated with each other.


Christmas is the biggest holiday that is celebrated in our country. Its origins date back to 336 AD to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to show their Christian faith. Now, people celebrate it on December 25th and use it as a way to bring their family together and give gifts under a Christmas tree. Whenever people think of “holiday spirit”, Christmas is always the first thing that comes to mind.


Hanukkah is another big holiday that is celebrated in either late November or December as a part of Jewish tradition. It was created in the second century B.C. after the Maccabean revolt. Celebrated for 8 days every year in November or December (depending on the Hebrew calendar), Hanukkah has an especially large presence in Southwest Portland (where we have a high Jewish population). Every night for those 8 days, a candle is lit on the menorah, and families celebrate by making traditional Jewish food and playing the dreidel game. It is not tradition to give gifts, but since it is in the season of “gift giving”, many families do use it as a time to give presents to their family, one for each night.

Kwanzaa is another holiday that many people do not know much about. It was created in the 1960s as a way to strengthen the African American community and celebrate their culture. It lasts 7 days from December 26th through January 1st, with each day representing a different value. Those values are unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Families come together and light candles to commemorate their ancestors and then have a celebration where they might dance, sing, read poems, and more. Typically, gifts are given on the last day and are usually handmade gifts instead of purchased ones. Unlike Christmas and Hanukkah, Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday but more of a cultural one.

When the holiday season rolls around, acknowledging that it’s not just Christmas being celebrated helps us embrace more cultural/religious diversity this December. Recognizing that everyone celebrates different holidays is important, and we shouldn’t assume everyone celebrates Christmas just because it’s the most celebrated holiday. Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas are all different from one another, but the values of family and kindness still stand and are equal to one another. So, vitalize this holiday season to hold some positive values and celebrate however you please with your family.