This Thursday marked the beginning of Hanukkah, an 8-day festival celebrated by Jews around the world. Hanukkah is one of the few festivals that are not mentioned in the Tanakh, also called the Hebrew Bible. It is instead written about in detail in religious writings called ‘The Apocrypha’.
As millions of Jews initiated this weeklong celebration, we take a look at how Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights is commemorated across the globe.
Facts About Hanukkah That You Probably Didn’t Know
Hanukkah, or Chanukkah, honors the victory of the taking of the Second Temple of Jerusalem during the second century B.C. by the Jewish army of Maccabees. The returning Jews had to light a menorah that would stay ignited in the temple constantly. As per the belief, there was enough oil to last one day, but the oil burned for eight days. It is also why this festival is celebrated for 8 days.
Hanukkah is tied to the Jewish lunar calendar and moves around on the Gregorian calendar. This year it will be celebrated beginning on the evening of Dec. 10th and ending on the evening of Dec. 18, 2020.
How Is Hanukkah Celebrated?
By now, you may have guessed that the menorah plays an integral role and is the most recognizable symbol of the holiday. It starts with lighting just one candle on the menorah on the first night, the second night two candles are lit, and on the third, three candles, until all eight are lit by the last night. Hold on, but didn’t you just count a ninth larger candle in the middle of the menorah? Yes, there’s a ninth candle in the middle called the Shammash, used to light all the other candles. The lit menorah is then placed on a windowsill, or any place that makes it easily visible to all.
Traditionally, the dreidels game is played with family and friends and fried foods like the Latkes, Bakbah and Sufganiyot among other delicacies are enjoyed.
Hanukkah Around The World
Hanukkah In Australia
In Australia, families spend the night at home lighting up the menorah, followed by a day of celebration with the surrounding community. Jews hold block parties to gather and commemorate the “festival of lights.”
Hanukkah In Canada
Canadians have been celebrating Hanukkah since the 17th century. They celebrate the holiday as more of a tradition than a day of religious significance, exchanging gifts and eating the foods traditional to the family and their roots.
Hanukkah In China
A large synagogue built in the eighth or ninth century hosted close to 5000 native Jews during its times of popularity. However, by the mid nineteenth century, the Jew population had completely dwindled.
Diplomatic relations between China and Israel reignited an interest in Judaism, inviting Kaifeng Jews who had left the country to return. They now observe Hanukkah by lighting menorahs and hosting joint prayers.
Hanukkah In London
Every year at Hanukkah, London’s Trafalgar Square is brought to life with a giant menorah. The lighting of the menorah has become an annual event attracting thousands of interested spectators. London is home to over 250,000 Jews, and the festival is also celebrated throughout England with great zeal and spirit of faith.
Hanukkah In Germany
To stand with the Jewish population in Germany, a large menorah is lit in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate to honor the memories of anti-Semitic demonstrations that occurred there before and during the Second World War.
Hanukkah In Hungary
Hanukkah in Budapest is celebrated with great pomp and splendor every year. During Hanukkah, the city hosts a festival called the quarter six-quarter 7 festival, that takes its name from the districts in the historic Jewish quarter of Budapest. For the whole 8 nights, families and friends fete with the community, participating in theater performances, and concerts. There are even special Hanukkah menus at the local restaurants to ring in the holiday.
Hanukkah In India
India is a country that has a vibrant Jewish community. Instead of the traditional wax covered candles, wicks dipped in coconut oil are ignited. Indians have their own specific Hanukkah treats like the pakoras, a onion fritter, poha, a spiced snack of flattened rice and Barfi, a milk based sweetmeat.
Hanukkah In Iran
Iran has been home to Jews since ancient times. Today, Iran has a fair share of synagogues and temples. Jewish Iranians attend religious services, read prayers, and commemorate Hanukkah in a more traditional and conservative style. Kuku Savri, an egg fritter is popular among Iranian Jews during this time.
Hanukkah In Israel
The streets of Israel glow on all eight of the Hanukkah nights. Most families place their menorahs in special spaces within the structures of the house, making them visible to the public outside.
Jews here enjoy latkes and sufganiyot (round jelly doughnuts), challah bread, and other traditional fried foods to signify the symbolism of the oil used to light the menorah candle.
Hanukkah In Italy
Rome has a native Jew population that has been around from 160 B.C. Rome has an elaborate celebration for Hanukkah, with the massive, 20 feet tall menorah is lit at the Piazza Barberini. The festivities are not complete without a Jewish fried feast. Fried Chicken marinated with olive oil, lemon, and nutmeg, is coated in flour and deep fried, along with thin slices of aubergine and mashed potato pancakes. Frittelle de Chanukah or fried dough fritters drizzled with warm honey are the special Italian Hanukkah sweets.
Hanukkah In Poland
There are many intriguing historical shtetls, or Jewish villages across Poland, especially Krakow where you can experience the lighting of the candles and the whole festive vibe. There are also quite a few kosher eateries that serve authentic Jewish delicacies during the holiday time.
Hanukkah In Russia
Russia has several Jewish worship centers across the Moscow metropolitan area, and two of the oldest and most-visited synagogues hold special candle-lighting ceremonies for Hanukkah. There are choir performances, singing of religious songs and a special Shabbat Hanukkah Friday dinner hosted by The International Jewish Community in Moscow, which welcomes expats and travelers with warmth.
Hanukkah In The USA
While traditional gift giving isn’t a part of the festivities, Jewish families in the USA often gift their loved ones during this time. One reason for this could be that Hanukkah, Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to fall around the same time, a time which is popularly known for exchanging presents.
Many mixed religion families set up a Chanukkah Bush next to their Christmas trees and celebrate a mixed holiday call Christmukkah. Here in Texas, Chanukkah is observed quite differently, on a boat down the San Antonio River. Beef brisket, doughnuts, Latkes and Babkas are enjoyed plenty during Hanukkah in Texas.