Mon. Jun 14th, 2021

the Torch

The student voice of Wichita High School South

Origin of Christmas & Hanukkah

4 min read

The first time Christmas was celebrated was on December 25, 336, during the time of Roman Emperor Constantine. It was not yet a national holiday. Hanukkah was first celebrated in 165 BCE by Judas Maccabeus for his victory over Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Origin of Christmas

December 25 was declared a federal holiday as Christmas in 1870. Christmas was intended to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and the tradition of gift-giving was tied to the story of the Biblical Magi giving gifts to baby Jesus. The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. Gift giving from Santa Claus has been an important part of Christmas since the holidays rejuvenation in the early 19th century. The tradition of having a Christmas tree originated in Germany in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids from wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce.

Decorated Germany Christmas pyramid

Origin of Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a Jewish festival, lasting eight days from the 25th of December and is about commemorating the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem in 165 BC, at the time of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire. It is marked by the successive kindling of eight lights. It is also known as the festival of lights. During Hanukkah, on each of the eight nights, a candle is lit in a special menorah called a Hanukkiyah. There’s a special ninth candle called the Shammash or servant candle and is used to light the other candles. The Shammash candle is often in the middle and in a higher position than the other candles.


Most (about 90% of) Americans celebrate Christmas, but only 46% celebrate it for religious reasons. The ratio of people who celebrate Hanukkah to Christmas in America is 1 to 14. The most celebrated holiday in America is Christmas, and 1.6 billion participate in celebrating Christmas.

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June 2021

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