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Kwanzaa, Hanukkah; different yet similar

Kwanzaa, Hanukkah; different yet similar

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After a holiday celebration recently at school, my 7- year-old son came home confusing Hanukkah with Kwanzaa.

So for my son and anyone else who has ever mixed the two up, here are the top seven similarities and differences:

1. Although they both use candles, Kwanzaa lasts seven days while Hanukkah lasts eight. In Hanukkah the light from the candles is significant; in Kwanzaa so are the red, black and green colors of the candles.

2. Hanukkah is steeped in the Jewish religion, whereas Kwanzaa does not have a religious base and is spiritual in nature.

3. Kwanzaa is always from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Hanukkah starts on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which can occur from late November to late December on the secular calendar.

4. Kwanzaa has been celebrated for 44 years, Hanukkah for more than 2,000.

5. There are variant spellings of both: Kwanzaa or Kwanza; Chanukkah or Hanukah or Hanukkah.

6. Both are celebrated by folks not in the culture. Non-Jews celebrate Hanukkah and non-African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa. Not all Jews celebrate Hanukkah and not all African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa.

7. In Hebrew, the word `"Hanukkah'' means `"dedication.'' Kwanzaa is Swahili and means `"first fruits.'' Hanukkah celebrates faith and resistance against oppression. Kwanzaa also celebrates faith, creativity, and working together to solve problems and improve society. My family celebrates Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Harambee!

- Akilah Bolden-Monifa is a freelance writer based in Oakland, Calif.


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