All over the world, Jews celebrate freedom and miracles during the 8-night holiday of Hanukkah, which falls this year on November 28 to December 5, 2021.
We already know and love the popular Hanukkah traditions of giving gifts to family and friends, fried foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts), but what other customs can we discover from Jewish communities around the world?
In honor of the 8-night miracle we celebrate on Hanukkah, here are eight unique Hanukkah traditions that we love:
After their 1492 expulsion from Spain, many Sephardic Jews found their way to Aleppo, which became a safe home for hundreds of years. As a sign of thanks, many Syrian Jews light an extra shamash candle on each night of Hanukkah. (So instead of lighting 2 candles on the first night, they’d light 3!)
Some Italian Jewish communities connect the darkness and sorrow of Tisha B’Av with the light and joy of Hanukkah through a unique custom: on Tisha B’Av, we read the Book of Lamentations by candlelight, and some Italian Jews will keep this same candle and use it months later as the shamash on Hanukkah! This way, we can be reminded of both the sorrows and the victories that we have experienced throughout history.
Many Jews in Morocco enjoy celebrating Hanukkah so much that they extend the holiday to a ninth day, which they call the “day of the shamash!” On this special day, children would go from house to house to collect all of the leftover Hanukkah candles (kind of like trick-or-treating on Halloween.) Then, they would gather up all of these candles and build a giant bonfire, where they would sing and dance and enjoy the warm glow.
The seventh night of Hanukkah falls on Rosh Hodesh Tevet, which many Tunisians recognize as the Festival of the Daughters, Chag HaBanot. On this day, girls and women take the day off from work and celebrate the courage and spirit of Judith, who saved the Jewish people by killing the Holofernes, a general sent by the wicked ruler Antiochus of the Greek Empire.
Because the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, Hanukkah takes place in the summer for Australian Jews! For them, Hanukkah is all about togetherness with family and friends, so many Australian Jews will host block parties for the whole neighborhood!
In the Alsace region, many Jewish families will use unique double-decker chanukiyot with room for 16 candles, rather than just 8. This is so that a parent and child could light their candles together on one menorah!
During Hanukkah, the city of Budapest holds the Quarter6Quarter7 festival in honor of the historic Jewish quarter. The city comes together for eight nights to celebrate the Festival of Lights with concerts, flash mobs, and even special Hanukkah menus at restaurants!
Instead of using wax-covered candles, many Indian Jews will dip wicks in coconut oil to light their Hanukkah lights!
And you, do you have specific rituals for Hanukkah celebrations and decorations?
Let us know in the comments!