Similarities between Kwanzaa and Hanukkah
Similarities between Kwanzaa and Hanukkah Celebrations at Christmas
Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, celebrated by African-Americans and Jewish
people respectively, are observed during the Christmas season. The
celebrations are separate from activities related to Christmas however.
The observances of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah are also one reason that people
also give wishes of Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas during
Although both activities are very different and were originated
for different reasons, some similarities can be found between the two
practices. Both celebrations have commitment as a central and important
theme. They also both include symbolic forms of light and are both
commemorated over almost the same number of days – seven (7) days from
Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 for Kwanzaa, and eight (8) days and night for
Hanukkah – usually starting about one week before Christmas Day.
Starting with its origination, Hanukkah celebrations dates to an
event in 165 B.C. when the Jews were victorious over the Syrians.
Hanukkah started as a way to restore and rededicate the Temple in
Jerusalem that had been desecrated, including its golden menorah, by
the Syrians. The festival also served the purpose of once more
observing and re-instituting rituals that the Syrians had forbidden
during their rule.
Kwanzaa was started 40 years ago by a university professor as a
way for African-Americans and others in the African diaspora to engage
in celebrations that included elements of African culture.
While Kwanzaa is not as popular as Christmas, it keeps
growing and its goal has been achieved to some extent as it is now
practiced in many nations such as those in the Caribbean, which have a
large population of people of African ancestry. The wide availability
of Kwanzaa greeting cards and even postage stamps at Christmas time,
also attests to the extent to which the celebration has entered the
The primary symbol of Hanukkah, the menorah, which consists of
eight (8) individual lights, is very much a part of the mainstream.
Menorahs are available today in various shapes and sizes. A single
standard requirement that must be observed in making a menorah is that
there should be enough separation between the flame of each of the
eight (8) lights so that they don’t give the total effect of a single
large flame when all are lit.
A flame is lit each night over the days in remembrance of how a
small quantity of oil from the desecrated Temple kept a menorah burning
for eight (8) days, when the amount should have only lasted for a
single day. It was that miraculous occurrence that gave rise to the
Hanukkah celebration to light a menorah over eight (8) days.
Kwanzaa symbols include a candleholder and seven (7) candles that
represent the roots of African ancestors and seven (7) core principles
of Kwanzaa respectively. Other symbols are, The Crops for African
harvest, Mat for African tradition, Corn for the future represented by
children, the Unity Cup and the Gifts. The Flag and Poster of Seven (7)
Principles are two (2) supplemental symbols.
These items can be found at specialty African and African-
American shops in some malls and in town with a heavy concentration of
African and African-American population.
Among the most important features of Kwanzaa are the seven (7)
core principles and values they embody: self-determination, unity,
collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose,
creativity and faith. These seven (7) principles are meant to be a
foundation and guide upon which the African diaspora can build a
strong, successful and fulfilling life while maintaining a connection
to their roots.
While not religious, the principles of Kwanzaa are meant to
instill a strong sense of spirituality in individuals. Kwanzaa seeks to
instill spirituality upon which individuals can build self-confidence
and secure self-identity through a link to their roots.
This sense of spirituality and connection to one’s history, roots
or ancestry is also an element of similarity between Kwanzaa and