I have a friend who does not like it when people say 'chag sameach' on hanukah, claiming that hanukah is not a chag.

What makes something a chag vs. not a chag?

  • I coulda sworn I asked almost the same question here in the past, but about Rosh Hashana rather than Chanuka -- but apparently not. +1, anyway.
    – msh210
    Dec 19, 2014 at 20:45
  • ...oh, it was elsewhere.
    – msh210
    Dec 21, 2014 at 6:06
  • Chag comes from Chagiga, the special offering brought (in the Beit HaMikdash) on the Shalosh Regalim [Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot (and by extension, Shmini Atzeret)]. Based on this criteria, neither Chanuka or Purim or Rosh HaShanna are considered Chag(im). Another point to consider is that if someone considers Chanuka to be a 'Chag' where work/working is permitted, one may erroneously conclude that work/working would be permitted (C"V) on Pesach which is a real Chag.
    – user4751
    Dec 22, 2014 at 21:55
  • @user4751 1.are you sure that only special offering holidays are considered chagim, and not Rosh Chodesh/Rosh Hashana? What about תקעו בחדש שופר הכסה ליום חגנו? 2. If חג is about the offering and not melacha, why would someone think that there's a prohibition to do melacha on a חג? Dec 22, 2014 at 22:04
  • Somewhat similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/55994
    – msh210
    Mar 3, 2015 at 5:39

2 Answers 2


According to most philologists/etymologists, the Biblical Hebrew word חג means something similar to a festive pilgrimage or gathering. It is thus related to the modern similar-sounding Arabic word Hajj, which refers to the Islamic obligatory pilgrimage. In that case, חג is only applicable for the three Biblical holidays when there's an obligation to make a pilgrimage to the Temple (see Deuteronomy ch. 15)

According to the Rabbinic interpretation, (see Mekhilta to Exodus 23:14 as well as the Mishnah in the beginning of Maseches Chagigah) the term 'לחוג' (to celebrate) actually refers to bringing a holiday sacrifice. Once again, there's no sacrifice to be brought on Channukah.

However, once the word became associated with holidays, I see no reason to avoid such a use, even if we've veered away from its biblical usage. After all, does anyone object to referring to a genius as a גאון?

  • The Yerushalmi (Tanis 25b) says that חגה in Hoshea 2:13 refers to Rosh Chodesh.
    – Yishai
    Dec 22, 2014 at 18:22
  • @Yishai Yeah, I was wondering how involved to get... Note how I have no sources. The poskim mention that yerushalmi by the Rama who wanted to change the siddur for shemini atzeres Dec 22, 2014 at 18:24
  • And of course תקעו בחודש שופר בכסה ליום חגנו and איזהו חג שהחדש מתכסה בו ... But didn't they bring sacrifices during the original Chanuka? I guess it isn't an ongoing obligation, though. But I suspect the objection is more about modern Hebrew usage than any actual problem in using the term.
    – Yishai
    Dec 22, 2014 at 18:31
  • @Yishai which is why the main point of my answer is the last paragraph; if an entire country of Hebrew users wish each other a חג האורים שמח, I think we can safely say that חג means holiday in modern Hebrew, regardless of Tanakh or chazal Dec 22, 2014 at 18:33

tell your frind to go back to basics. the gemoro Shabbos 21b clearly states that chanuka is a yomtov

at the begining of the tikuney zohar chadash writes that chanuka is part of the moadim. saying chag sameach has nothing to do with the gramatical biblical conotation of the words with the root חג. woulldnt have gone down that line!

sorry for being so straight forward.

  • 1
    Straight forward? Tikkunei Zohar Chadash is basics? Yom Tov is Chag? Where do you come up with this stuff?
    – Double AA
    Dec 23, 2014 at 21:41
  • the basics is the gemoro. ask the "friend" what he means and undersdands when he hears "chag". he hears "yom tov" which he thought chanuka isn't but back to basics, is shass it is!
    – rabbi
    Dec 23, 2014 at 21:45
  • the TZC was just an extra piece of info for the more learned
    – rabbi
    Dec 23, 2014 at 21:46
  • So you made up that the friend conflated Yom Tov and Chag, and then criticized him for doing so? Doesn't seem very fair.
    – Double AA
    Dec 23, 2014 at 21:49
  • ask him! and ask the millions of people who use the term, what they know aout the letter ח and ג. get real
    – rabbi
    Dec 23, 2014 at 21:50

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