Here’s why Hanukkah and Christmas are overlapping in 2016

Here’s why Hanukkah and Christmas are overlapping in 2016

This year, for the first time since 1978, Christmas Eve and the first night of Hanukkah will fall on the same day. While there's plenty to know about both holidays and their different traditions, falling on the same day allows for families, friends and strangers to potentially celebrate all together. So here's why Hanukkah and Christmas are overlapping this year, and what this can mean for the end of 2016. 

The Hanukkah-Christmas overlap 

According to Time, "The reason why Hanukkah overlaps with Christmas only some of the time has to do with the difference between the Jewish calendar, which is lunar, and the Gregorian calendar used by most people in the West." 

Neither calendar perfectly lines up to the amount of time it takes the Earth to orbit the sun, but the Gregorian calendar is closer, requiring only an occasional leap day to put it back on track. The Jewish calendar, however, requires a whole leap month, also called the intercalary month, to realign the days. This process is only necessary in certain years, but because the intercalary month was added to this year's Jewish calendar around February, that pushed Hanukkah much later than usual to what happens to be Christmas Eve. 

Hanukkah and Christmas won't overlap again until 2027, according to US Magazine

What does this mean? 

Philipp Nothaft, a calendar expert and fellow at All Souls College at the University of Oxford, told Time that the Hanukkah holiday is likely to continue migrating. The Jewish calendar has roughly six minutes of difference from the Gregorian calendar, which means Hanukkah, currently associated with November-December in the Gregorian calendar, will start to become more associated with December-January as time goes by.

Two important holidays celebrated by people of different faiths just happen to fall on the same day in the final month of 2016, almost asking us to come together in understanding and kindness right before the year — finally — ends. In fact, the Independent calls this occurrence "the perfect antidote" to the "divisiveness" of 2016, and we would have to agree.