Hanukkah – How is it celebrated around the world?

As the world slowly falls into a blissful holiday stupor, let’s take a minute to consider the beautiful Jewish festival – Hanukkah. Hanukkah, or Chanukah, marks the rededication of Jerusalem’s second Jewish temple during the time of the Maccabean revolt. An important aspect of the festival is the miracle of oil. Legend has it that when the temple was taken over by the Macabbees, there was only enough oil to keep the menorah (an ancient lampstand) burning for one day. However, the menorah continued to burn for eight more days proving to the Jews that God had resided in the temple once again. As a result, Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days every year by lighting the menorah. Festivities also include offering prayers, making special foods, playing games and giving gifts to friends and relatives. But that is just the tip of the beautiful iceberg that is this festival.

Thanks to the widespread cultural assimilation that has taken place in Jews around the globe, the festival celebrations take on many different forms. So here’s a quick look at just few of the ways the Jewish festival of light is celebrated across the globe

Preparing Latkes – USA

The most popular Hannukah food in the US is Latkes, a delicious fried potato pancake that has its roots in Easter Europe. Potatoes were in abundance in this region and hence Latkes became an important part of Hanukkah celebrations. The practice was then brought over to the United States.

Coconut oil menorahs – India

Different cultures have their own unique ways of honouring the miracle of oil. For instance, Indians of Jewish heritage prefer lighting their menorahs with coconut oil. They also replace the traditional latkes with burfi, a local delicacy made from condensed milk and sugar.

Honouring Hannah – Yemen

The seventh night of Hanukkah is celebrated as a special women’s holiday in Yemen and certain North African countries. This is done in honour of Hannah, or Channah, a Jewish woman who chose to sacrifice her seven sons rather than give in to the pressure of the Greeks to renounce her religion.

Sfenj doughnuts – Morocco

The Jewish community of Morocco seems to favour a rather orangey twist to their Hanukkah delights. Instead of latkes, they prefer Sfenj doughnuts made with orange juice. Interestingly, there is a special story behind this. Back in the day, the people of Israel started relating Hanukkah with oranges since the juicy fruits would come in season around this time.

Patacones – Colombia

A relatively new Jewish community in Colombia celebrates the festival with its own traditional food – patacones. Patacones are basically friend plantains and are all the rage in Colombia.


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