Hanukkah 2018 may be drawing to a close, but that doesn't mean we can't look at some of the places around the world that have celebrated Hanukkah — in ways we possibly didn't expect! Come with us as we take a look!
Since it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere for the duration of the Festival of Lights, Australia's Hanukkah celebrations are, well, light. Us in the Northern Hemisphere are used to cosy images of lit menorahs and their beautiful dancing candlelight in the darkness, but for the Jewish community in Australia, Hanukkah happens in the sun! From block parties that celebrate the festivities to Chanukah In The Park complete with fireworks and concerts, Australia offers a sunny alternative to this holiday — why not soak that up!
In Kaifeng, China, Hanukkah is an intimate affair, so don't be expecting an open invitation! The Jewish community here is centuries old and incredibly close-knit. Celebrations tend to be just as private with menorah lighting and Torah readings in shared venues or homes since the city doesn't have a synagogue.
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At their core, Hanukkah celebrations are the same the world over. Yet perhaps in India more than anywhere else they can also look so different! The Star of David is made into a Hanukkiya and is used more commonly than a traditional menorah. Indian Jews also use coconut oil to light the lamps instead of the Hanukkah candles we see in the rest of the world. The Bene Israel Jewish community in Mumbai is possibly the largest in India, sharing candle-lighting evenings in synagogues and the homes of families and friends. Gulab Jamon, which is a type of doughnut, and burfi, a kind of confectionary, are the traditional sweet treats eaten here for Hanukkah. And instead of latkes it is typical to have a type of onion fritter called a batata bhaji.
Morocco celebrates the eight days of candle lighting for Hanukkah much like any other place in the world. Though when it comes to cuisine a Moroccan Hanukkah is different indeed! On the third night of the Festival of Lights it is traditional to eat sfenj, which are a kind of doughnut dusted with sugar and flavoured with the juice and zest of oranges. Couscous is a staple ingredient as you might expect from Morocco, and in the city of Fez they go a step further for Hanukkah, where couscous is served with caramelised onions and fried almonds, with cinnamon and sugar to dust.
In commemoration of Hannah from the Book of the Maccabees, the seventh day of the Hanukkah holiday in Yemen is considered to be a woman's holiday. In celebration of the heroines of this story, this seventh night marks the beginning of Chag Ha'Banot, the Daughter's Festival. Mothers give their daughters gifts and visit synagogues to pray for the health of their daughters. Women of all ages come together overcoming any differences they might have had throughout the year, usually over a feast that is largely made up of cheese dishes. Another difference to Hanukkah in Yemen to what you might not be used to back home is that children go from house to house with tins to collect wicks for the menorah.
Since many people only have to hear the word Hanukkah to taste latkes, what would this holiday be without gorging ourselves on these moorish delights? Philadelphia only encourages that indulgence further by hosting an event called LatkePalooza, where local eateries provide a feast with their own special spin on latkes. LatkePalooza is now in its 15th year! You can try everything from the street food equivalent to a gourmet take on this Hanukkah dish, so if you go, do so on an empty stomach!
Turkish Jews have a traditional song that they sing during Hanukkah called Ocho Candelas. Now, you might read that and think Ocho Candelas looks particularly Spanish, and you'd be right; the song is sung in the Ladino dialect that is used by Sephardic Jews, who fled oppression in Spain. Turkish Jews also have their own spin on latkes that sounds distinctly Spanish called burmelos.
However you have, or are celebrating Hanukkah this year, we hope it is a wonderful time with friends and family. Chag Sameach!