Each year during December, some well-meaning people tack on “and Happy Hanukkah” when they say “Merry Christmas.” It’s as if they feel a need to give equal time to their Jewish acquaintances. We hear this a good bit in our Judeo-Christian family, but I also see it other places, such as social media.
But the way to give equal time is to wish Jewish friends “Happy New Year” now.
Rosh Hashanah — ראש השנה — Jewish New Year — begins at sundown today, Sept. 29, 2019, thus beginning year 5780.
For those of us who are Christian, Rosh Hashanah most closely corresponds to Christmas. The Church Year begins with Advent, which prefaces Christmas. But more significantly, there are two High Holidays in each religion. The Most Holy Day in Judaism is Yom Kippur; in Christianity it is Easter. Rosh Hashanah and Christmas are close seconds in importance.
There are Jewish festivals that occur near the times of Christmas and Easter, but — even though Easter has a historic link to Passover — Christmas and Easter are comparable to Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, respectively, rather than Hanukkah and Passover.
Comparing Holy Days with festivals is like comparing apples to oranges. Comparing Holy Days to each other is like grapes to grapes, or ambrosia to ambrosia.