Due to the vagaries of the Gregorian calendar and the modified Jewish lunar calendar, Christmas and Chanukah don’t necessarily overlap.
The two holidays overlap very closely this year. And it’s interesting to note the historical overlap as well.
Chanukah marks the Jewish rebellion against the Seleucid Empire by the Maccabees which leads to the Hasmonean dynasty of priest-kings ruling over Israel. This dynasty’s life is brief. Their attempts to ally with Rome produce temporary successes, but, much as with the Greek colonizers, an alliance with Rome leads to a takeover by another empire.
The Hasmonean dynasty, the final dynasty of Jewish kings, is destroyed by Antipater, a Roman ally, and his son, Herod.
As I noted last year in The Big Palestine Lie, “The Romans made extended use of Arab mercenaries and rulers to secure their dominions. One such ruler was Herod, the son of an Idumean father and a Nabatean Arab mother, (according to the Greek historian Strabo they were both Arabic peoples), who repressed the Jews.”
Antipater successfully manipulated and then usurped the Hasmonean kings, ending Jewish rule over Israel.
The Herodians were Arab courtiers serving Rome who were widely loathed by the Jewish population. The varying Jewish rebellions against Roman rule eventually led to the ethnic cleansing of Israel’s Jewish population.
Both holidays take place during different, but interconnected phases of Second Temple Jewish history. To understand the historical context of Christmas, it can be useful to start with Chanukah. (Likewise, the origins of Second Temple history can be found in the holiday of Purim, which marks Jewish interactions with the Persian Empire, moving on to Chanukah, and the Seleucid Empire, and then Christmas, and the Roman Empire.)