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Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in Igros Moshe Even Ha'Ezer 2 #13 says (my translation):

One should not plan a simcha on a non-Jewish religious holiday. If it was planned specifically for that day because it is their holiday, then by letter of the law it is assur. If it happened to come out then, it should still be assur due to maaris ayin.

A seudas Mitzvah like a bris or pidyon haben one could make even on their holiday, because we should not make assur a seuda that is incumbent upon us due to maaris ayin. Whereas a Bar Mitzvah should be pushed off for another day, and a wedding too should be planned originally for another day.

New years and Thanksgiving is not assur by letter of the law but a baal nefesh should be stringent.

My question is what about a Chanukah party on Christmas. The poskim all say a chunakah party is not a seudas mitzvah, but at the same time perhaps perhaps the day forces our hand, like a bris or pidyon haben. Of course it is not exactly the same, there you have one day here eight, but those eight days are not completely up in the air to choose like a bar mitzvah or wedding.

(E.C. Also, are there any more modern responsa dealing with this mar'is ayin? I don't really understand how this maaris ayin works.)

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    Your quotation seems to answer your question. It looks like according to R' Moshe, you would not be allowed to hold a Chanukah party on Christmas due to maaris ayin. Also, a Chanukah party is a seudas mitzvah when there is singing praises to Hashem involved. (See Kitzur S''A 139:1) – ezra Dec 22 '16 at 17:05
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    The two sides presented in my question make me think it is not so simple. Singing praises will turn your lunch today into a seudas mitzvah. I don't think chanuka is a necessary ingredient. – user6591 Dec 22 '16 at 17:10
  • You are correct. But I still hold by my first comment. – ezra Dec 22 '16 at 17:14
  • @EzraHoerster So R Moshe holds no singing praises to God at meals on Christmas? This is now approaching Purim Torah status (aka "Nittel"). – Double AA Dec 22 '16 at 17:14
  • Wouldn't the "maris ayin" factor depend a lot on which community you live in? I think if you live in a mainly Jewish community, it would be pretty clear that you are doing a Chanukah party. Even if not in a Jewish community, wouldn't the setup make it quite clear that you are celebrating Chanukah? You have a mezuzah on all your doors, you're serving latkes instead of spiral ham, and you're spinning dreidels instead of your head trying to pry open the power drill gift in hard plastic. – DanF Dec 22 '16 at 18:06
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The passage you quoted from R' Feinstein includes:

A seudas Mitzvah like a bris or pidyon haben one could make even on their holiday, because we should not make assur a seuda that is incumbent upon us due to maaris ayin. Whereas a Bar Mitzvah should be pushed off for another day, and a wedding too should be planned originally for another day.

What the positive examples (the ones that should not be postponed) have in common is that they have obligatory timing. A bris is on the eighth day, not the seventh or ninth. Similarly, we wouldn't put off the Pesach seder or chag service just because that year it happens to coincide with Easter. The commandment has a timing component and we follow that.

The negative examples (the ones you should reschedule), on the other hand, have in common that their timing is not constrained. When you celebrate a boy becoming bar mitzvah, which isn't necessarily exactly on his 13th birthday to begin with, is flexible. If you have to wait a few days or a week, you wait. A wedding is even more flexible.

A Chanukah party, while not as flexible as a wedding, is way more flexible than a bris or pidyon haben. Further, while we have a custom of celebrating a bar mitzvah or a wedding with a seudah mitzvah, to the point that people might inquire if you chose not to have a celebration, there doesn't seem to be as strong and universal a tradition for Chanukah parties. Some families and communities have them; some don't. As you say in the question, a Chanukah party is not a seudah mitzvah. There appears to be no imperative that counter-balances the non-Jewish holiday.

You have eight days in which to schedule it. You can pick one of the other seven.

  • +1 for the analysis. However, the question how maris ayin works, may be a counter-balancing factor. As I mentioned in my comments, I think maris ayin depends much on the environment one is in. See my comment about the Coffee Rich as an example of "adjustability" in maris ayin. – DanF Dec 22 '16 at 18:51
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    @DanF oh, I hadn't read all the discussion of marit ayin in the comments. I was responding to what's in the question itself. – Monica Cellio Dec 22 '16 at 18:53
  • That's fine. I still think that your answer addresses the major point in his question. Happy Chanukah. – DanF Dec 22 '16 at 18:55
  • +1 good point about not making a party at all. But I must say I forgot one major factor. For this year 2016 in particular. The fact that Sunday is usually the most convenient day for Chanuka parties, and this year the first day is Sunday the 25th. – user6591 Dec 22 '16 at 18:57
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    @user6591 true, Sunday is usually the most convenient day, and the second Sunday in Chanukah this year is also a non-Jewish holiday (though maybe a less-bad one). If you're in the northern hemisphere, consider the merits of motzei Shabbat. :-) – Monica Cellio Dec 22 '16 at 19:05

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