Someone told me that 'Happy Hanukka' is not a kosher greeting since it is following the laws of the non-Jews... (and there is no mitzvah to have a meal on Hanukka as on Purim (some say because many Jews died in the war).

What is the history of the greeting 'Happy Hanukka'?
When was it first used?
Is there a proof that it is a kosher greeting/wish?

(The question is not regarding the English word but the idea of happiness in the context of the holiday.)

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    The burden of proof is on assuming it may be forbidden. Does one need to prove that it is ok to say “happy Tuesday”?!
    – ASL
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 16:26
  • @ASL I agree but it is nice to be able to answer him anyway
    – hazoriz
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 16:30
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    @ASL: Well, here in the US, who would be wishing each other a "Happy Hanukka" if it weren't a "Merry Xmas" stand-in? On the other hand, here in the US how many Jews would be celebrating Chanukah if it weren't for the season? Certainly a smaller percentage than those who celebrate Shavous... So this may come down to motive and context more than the actual saying. Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 16:31
  • 1
    @MichaBerger Well, here in the US, who would be wishing each other a "Happy Hanukka" if it weren't a "Merry Xmas" stand-in? A lot of people, in my opinion. I typically wish people "Happy Purim", "Happy Tu Bishvat", etc. during the appropriate times of year.
    – Fred
    Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 19:50
  • @Fred: And most American Jews don't even know when Purim happens until they see mention on an evening news human interest piece. We here on Mi Yodea aren't representative. And I doubt even among the observant, on a day when people go to work and Chanukah might be 30 special minutes in the evening, would it be "a lot of people" making a big deal in general conversation. But, no way to know what would be in a "what if" situation. Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 18:41

2 Answers 2


Chanuka is definitely a time for happiness and rejoicing.

The Rambam (Chanuka Perek 3) writes:

ומפני זה התקינו חכמים שבאותו הדור שיהיו שמונת ימים האלו שתחלתן כ"ה בכסלו ימי שמחה והלל

As a result, the Sages of the Generation decreed that the eight days beginning with 25th >Kislev shall be days of happiness and praise.

A possible source for this Rambam is Megillas Antiochus:

על כן נדרו בני חשמונאי את הנדר הזה ואסרו את האיסר הזה, הם וכל בני ישראל, להודיע לבני ישראל לעשות שמונה ימים אלה שמחה ויקר כימי החגים הכתובים בתורה, להדליק בהם, להודיע למי שיבא אחריהם, כי עשה להם אלהיהם הצלה מן השמים

Indeed, the classic Yiddish greeting on Chanuka is 'א פריילעכן חנוכה', which means a 'Happy Chanukah'.

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    How old is the expression א פריילעכן חנוכה ? Is it older than Happy Chanukah? If not it doesn't help anything
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 18:35

The earliest 2 sources for Chanukah are the talmud in Shabbos 21b and the Al Hanisim prayer. Both of these mention Praise and Thanksgiving, but neither mentions happiness per se.

However, it seems clear for another reason that Chanukah is associated with happiness specifically. We recite Hallel, which is an expression of joy. Rambam writes in משנה תורה, הלכות מגילה וחנוכה in law 3:6 that:

וְלֹא הַלֵּל שֶׁל חֲנֻכָּה בִּלְבַד הוּא שֶׁמִּדִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים אֶלָּא קְרִיאַת הַהַלֵּל לְעוֹלָם מִדִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים בְּכָל הַיָּמִים שֶׁגּוֹמְרִין בָּהֶן אֶת הַהַלֵּל. וּשְׁמוֹנָה עָשָׂר יוֹם בַּשָּׁנָה מִצְוָה לִגְמֹר בָּהֶן אֶת הַהַלֵּל. וְאִלּוּ הֵן. שְׁמוֹנַת יְמֵי הֶחָג. וּשְׁמוֹנַת יְמֵי חֲנֻכָּה. וְרִאשׁוֹן שֶׁל פֶּסַח וְיוֹם עֲצֶרֶת. אֲבָל רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה וְיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים אֵין בָּהֶן הַלֵּל לְפִי שֶׁהֵן יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה וְיִרְאָה וָפַחַד לֹא יְמֵי שִׂמְחָה יְתֵרָה. וְלֹא תִּקְּנוּ הַלֵּל בְּפוּרִים שֶׁקְּרִיאַת הַמְּגִלָּה הִיא הַהַלֵּל:

And it is not only the Hallel of Chanukah that is from the words of the Scribes. Rather the reading of the Hallel is always from the words of the Scribes on all of the days in which we complete the Hallel. And it is a commandment to complete the Hallel on eighteen days in the year. And these are them: The eight days of the Festival (Sukkot); eight days of Chanukah; the first day of Passover; and the day of [Shavuot]. But there is no Hallel on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because they are days of repentance, awe and fear - not days of excessive joy. And they did not ordain Hallel on Purim, because the Scroll [of Esther that is read on it] is the Hallel.

The clear implication is that all days of Hallel are indeed days of excessive joy. Thus happy chanukah is a highly appropriate greeting.

Your friends idea is from shulchan aruch who writes in OC 670:2:

ריבוי הסעודות שמרבים בהם הם סעודות הרשות שלא קבעום למשתה ושמחה

and Mishnah Berurah comments:

(ו) שלא קבעום למשתה ושמחה - אלא להלל ולהודות.

but it seems that this statement is meant relative to purim and other festive days, but not that Chanukah is not a happy time at all.

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    The Rambam also says ומפני זה התקינו חכמים שבאותו הדור שיהיו שמונת ימים האלו שתחלתן כ"ה בכסליו ימי שמחה והלל
    – wfb
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 17:11
  • You don't even need to go to the Rambam. It's in the pasuk: זה היום עשה ה' נגילה ונשמחה בו
    – Heshy
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 17:26
  • sefaria.org/Arukh_HaShulchan%2C_Orach_Chaim.670.9?lang=bi simcha
    – hazoriz
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 17:42
  • The Talmud says we don't say Hallel on the High Holy Days because it is not seemly to praise so effusively the One from whom you are seeking forgiveness (don't be an apple polisher): "The Holy One, Blessed be He... said: Is it possible that while the King is sitting on the throne of judgment and the books of life and the books of death are open before Him, the Jewish people would be reciting songs before Me?" [Arachin 10b] Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 2:39

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