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Kwanza vs. Hannukah — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Urooj Arif — Published on February 8, 2024
Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration honoring African heritage and community, observed from December 26 to January 1, while Hanukkah is a Jewish religious festival commemorating the Maccabees' victory and the miracle of the Temple's oil, lasting eight days.
Kwanza vs. Hannukah — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Kwanza and Hannukah


Key Differences

Kwanzaa and Hanukkah are celebrated during the winter season but for different reasons. Kwanzaa, beginning on December 26 and ending on January 1, celebrates African-American culture, community, and family values. Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday, commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century B.C. and lasts for eight nights and days.
The traditions of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah are distinct in their cultural and religious significance. Kwanzaa involves lighting a kinara (candle holder) with seven candles, representing seven core principles such as unity and self-determination. Hanukkah is marked by lighting the menorah, an eight-branched candelabrum, with an additional helper candle, symbolizing the miracle of a day's oil lasting eight days.
Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday but rather a cultural one, created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga in the United States to empower and unite the African-American community. Hanukkah, on the other hand, is a religious observance in Judaism, celebrated with prayers, games like dreidel, and special foods like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts).
The focus of Kwanzaa celebrations includes discussions and activities centered around African heritage, community development, and cultural values. Hanukkah is primarily focused on religious observance and remembrance of the Maccabees' victory and the miracle of the Temple's oil, with family gatherings and gift-giving.
Kwanzaa's name is derived from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," meaning "first fruits," reflecting its roots in African harvest festivals. Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, gets its name from the Hebrew word for "dedication," signifying the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Comparison Chart


Created in 1966 in the U.S.
Ancient Jewish tradition


7 days (Dec 26 - Jan 1)
8 nights and days

Symbolic Lighting

Kinara with 7 candles
Menorah with 8 candles plus a helper candle

Cultural Aspect

Celebrates African-American culture
Jewish religious observance


Focus on community and cultural values
Religious prayers, games, and special foods

Compare with Definitions


Kwanzaa is a celebration of African-American culture and community values.
During Kwanzaa, we discussed the principle of Umoja, which emphasizes unity in our community.


Hanukkah is a Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple.
We celebrate Hanukkah to remember the miracle that occurred in the Temple over 2,000 years ago.


The holiday of Kwanzaa culminates in a feast and gift-giving.
The Kwanzaa feast, or Karamu, brought everyone together to celebrate our culture and achievements.


Hanukkah lasts for eight days and nights, reflecting the ancient miracle of the oil.
The eight days of Hanukkah are a time of joy and reflection for our family.


Kwanzaa is marked by cultural expressions and reflection on African heritage.
Kwanzaa festivities include African music and storytelling to honor our heritage.


Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights, celebrated with the lighting of the menorah.
Each night of Hanukkah, we light another candle on the menorah to symbolize the miracle of the oil.


A week-long holiday, Kwanzaa focuses on seven core principles.
Each night of Kwanzaa, we light a candle on the kinara to represent one of the principles.


The holiday includes playing the dreidel game and eating oil-based foods.
During Hanukkah, we play dreidel and enjoy latkes and sufganiyot with family.


Kwanzaa was established to strengthen and unite the African-American community.
Kwanzaa serves as a time for us to strengthen our bonds and reflect on our collective goals.


Hanukkah is celebrated with prayers, songs, and family gatherings.
On Hanukkah, we gather to sing traditional songs and recite prayers of thanks.


See Table at currency.


(Judaism) an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem in 165 BC


The currency of Angola, divided into a hundred cêntimos.


The basic unit of money in Angola


A festival featuring African-American culture; celebrated between Christmas and New Years

Common Curiosities

What is the duration of Hanukkah?

Hanukkah lasts eight nights and days.

How long is Kwanzaa celebrated?

Kwanzaa is celebrated for seven days, from December 26 to January 1.

What does Hanukkah commemorate?

Hanukkah commemorates the Jewish Maccabees' victory and the miracle of the Temple's oil.

What are traditional Hanukkah activities?

Hanukkah traditions include lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, and eating oil-based foods.

Is Kwanzaa a religious holiday?

No, Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration, not tied to any religion.

Is Hanukkah a major Jewish holiday?

While significant, Hanukkah is not considered one of the major religious holidays in Judaism.

What is the purpose of Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa celebrates African-American cultural heritage and community values.

What is a menorah in Hanukkah?

The menorah is an eight-branched candelabrum used during Hanukkah.

What symbolizes Kwanzaa?

The kinara, a candle holder with seven candles, symbolizes Kwanzaa.

What is the meaning of the name 'Kwanzaa'?

Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," meaning "first fruits."

What are the core principles of Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa is centered around seven principles, including unity, self-determination, and creativity.

Can non-African Americans celebrate Kwanzaa?

Yes, anyone can celebrate Kwanzaa to honor African-American culture.

Do people exchange gifts during Hanukkah?

Yes, it is common to exchange gifts during Hanukkah.

Why are foods fried in oil eaten during Hanukkah?

Foods are fried in oil during Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle of the Temple's oil.

Is Kwanzaa celebrated worldwide?

Kwanzaa is primarily celebrated in the United States but has recognition in other countries.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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