Hanukkah 2020: Learn how people around the world are celebrating
People all around the world haven’t let the pandemic stop them from celebrating the holidays. Hanukkah season has officially begun and Jewish people all over the world have lit the first candle on their menorahs last night, when Hanukkah began at sundown December 10.
For those who don’t celebrate or aren’t familiar with Hanukkah, it’s known as the “Festival of Lights” and takes place over eight days with the lighting of the Jewish menorah. This daily celebration includes various foods like potato latkes, exchanging gifts, and holiday rituals.
What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah dates back to the Maccabean Revolt in 164 B.C. The Maccabees was an army of Jewish fighters who successfully defended the Second Temple against Greek-Syrian leaders. The Maccabees brought back the Second Temple in Jerusalem and today the Jewish people continue to celebrate their victory.
The Maccabees needed to prepare the Second Temple for the Jewish people but didn’t have enough oil to keep their lamps lit. The Maccabees couldn’t prepare the temple in one day as they only had “one night’s worth of oil”. The oil was split and spared for eight nights – miraculously, it lasted. Therefore, to commemorate this occasion, the Jewish people burn eight candles over eight nights.
To celebrate Hanukkah, Jewish people worldwide celebrate this holiday in different ways. The Daily Meal outlined how Hanukkah will be celebrated all over the world in 2020.
According to The Daily Meal, Afghani Jews “have a long and complicated history with the majority Muslim government, resulting in Jews feeling the need to hide their religious identity”. Instead of lighting candles, so they don’t attract unwanted attention, they fill bowls with oil to represent the oil the Maccabees used to prepare the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
If you’re celebrating Hanukkah in Israel, you’re probably eating round, jelly donuts called sufganiyot. Jewish families create oily foods like latkes as some of their traditional baking treats. Many houses in Jerusalem have “cut out walls” to display their menorahs for the entire community to admire & enjoy.
Hanukkah Down Under
Jewish families celebrate Hanukkah together with candles and a lot of food. Australian Jews usually have block parties outside since the holiday is during their hottest time of the year.
According to The Daily Meal, the first group of Jewish people arrived in China during the late eighth century and built a synagogue that hosted approximately 5,000 Jews. In 2020, Kaifeng Jewish community celebrates Hanukkah through social gatherings of prayer and lighting the menorahs as a family.
The country takes Hanukkah very seriously as Budapest annually hosts a festival called the “Quarter 6 Quarter 7”, named after the districts in Budapest’s historic Jewish quarter. The festival takes place over eight nights all over the city with entertainment and great local food. It also provides locals more information about the Jewish community living in Hungary.
The Indian-Jews don’t light eight candles on a menorah but they interestingly dip wicks in coconut oil to represent the flame. The Jews have traditional Hanukkah cuisine like barfi, a milk-based fruit tart.
What is better than a normal sized menorah? A twenty-foot menorah that shines its light across Piazza Barberini in Rome for Hanukkah. Each night, Italian Jews eat fried donuts filled with honey and wait for each candle to be lit.
Russia has a similar Hanukkah tradition to the Italians & the Hungarians featuring eight-day festivals and the lighting of a giant menorah. Choir singers also perform traditional Jewish songs.
United States of America
American Jews host a Hanukkah gathering with their families & friends, featuring great food and holiday songs with their unique menorahs for the eight-day celebration. Some cities will also hang up blue & white lights to commemorate Hanukkah.
Due to COVID-19, CNN reported the Marlene Meyerson Jewish Community Center in New York City has moved their Hanukkah celebration online with “virtual cooking classes” and lighting of the menorah. Jewish people definitely take pride in their traditional cuisine so online cooking classes are the next best thing to personal gatherings in New York City.
Hanukkah may have everyone indoors this year, but worldwide, the Jewish community will find other ways to celebrate in a fun way. Let us know how your family will celebrate Hanukkah in the comments!