Christianity was cradled in Judaism, the religion of the Jewish people. Despite their differences, Judaism and Christianity have much in common. The celebration of the birth of Jesus, Christmas, is related to Hanukkah. Both feasts originated in Jerusalem. Both feasts occur in the month of December. On both holidays, it is customary exchange gifts. Both feasts commemorate actual events in history.

Many people think of Hanukkah as the “Jewish Christmas,” but any Jewish person ... will tell you that isn’t true. Hanukkah, of course, has nothing to do with Christmas, other than the 25th day of Kislev [the month on the Jewish calendar in which Hanukkah occurs] usually runs closer to Christmas than it does Thanksgiving.

Both religions celebrate the victory of light over darkness. At Hanukkah, there is a special nine-branch menorah. Eight of the candles on it represent the eight nights of Hanukkah. The ninth candle called, called the shamash, is used to light the other candles. Just as the shamash gives light to the other candles on it, Christians believe that Christmas marks the birth of Jesus, who gives spiritual light to those who believe in him.

Hanukkah is a real Jewish holiday, of course, but it’s a minor holiday. Hanukkah doesn’t exist in the Old Testament. Celebrating it to great excess—with decorations and gifts of toys—would be sort of like if Christians started to celebrate Arbor Day, or the saint’s day of Fulbert of Chartres, which sometimes occurs on the same day, with decorations and presents.

Judaism, like Christianity, has two major celebrations. The spring event, Passover, which celebrates liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt, occurs at roughly the same time as the Christian spring event, Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from death. But the second major Jewish holiday, the holiest day of the year, is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which occurs during the end of September/beginning of October.

But Hanukkah is also a valuable market to emphasize. The idea of undermining the Hanukkah holiday in favor of Christmas (despite some vague popularity in evangelical Christian or politically conservative circles) as the American holiday season, is likely to go nowhere. Even the American celebration of Christmas is a little puzzling to Christians in other countries. Indeed, the cultural hegemony of the United States means that the American-style Hanukkah is now spreading around the world.