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Is Hanukkah responsive to Christmas?

Mar 2008
Working Paper
07-049
By  Ran Abramitzky, Liran Einav, Oren Rigbi
We study the extent to which religious activity responds to the presence and activity of other religions. Specifically, we employ individual-level survey data and county-level expenditure data to examine the extent to which Hanukkah celebration among U.S. Jews is driven by the presence of Christmas. We find that: (1) Jews with children at home are more likely to celebrate Hanukkah than Jews without children. (2) The effect of having children on Hanukkah celebrations is higher for reform Jews than for orthodox Jews; and, it is higher for Jews who feel a stronger sense of belonging to Judaism. In contrast, there is no such differential effect of having children on the celebration of other Jewish holidays. (3) Jewish-related expenditures in Hanukkah are higher in counties with lower share of Jews. These findings are all consistent with the hypothesis that Jews increase religious activity during Hanukkah because of the presence of Christmas, and that this response is primarily driven by the presence of children at home. One underlying mechanism that could lead to this is that Jewish parents in the U.S. celebrate Hanukkah more intensively so their children do not feel left out, and/or because they are concerned that their children will convert or intermarry.