Known as the festival of lights, Hanukkah is when families come together to reaffirm the ideals of Judaism, light the candles of the menorah and enjoy special food like sufganiyot (doughnuts), challah and chocolate coins.
Hanukkah (or Chanukah) runs for eight days and falls between late November and early January, with the dates changing each year. In 2021 it takes place from November 28th through to December 6th.
Jewish communities all over the world celebrate the joyful festival, with many countries putting their own spin on time-honoured Hanukkah traditions…
1. Plantain dishes
Latkes (fried potato cakes) are served all over during Hanukkah, but in Central American countries such as Cuba and Puerto Rico, plantain takes the place of potato. These fried plantain cakes are called tostones or patacones.
2. Potato menorahs
Instead of a typical menorah candelabra, in Romania, Austria and other European countries, it was traditionally made out of potatoes by scooping out a hole and adding oil and a wick. Nowadays, it’s more common to stick wax candles into potatoes to recreate the tradition.
3. Menorahs in glass boxes
In Jerusalem, you’ll see menorahs in glass boxes positioned outside homes during Hanukkah. The tradition dates to when Jews were required to place the menorah for all to see. The candles were housed in boxes to protect them from the elements, and the practice continues to this day.
4. Wine tasting
In France’s Avignon region, famous for its vineyards, families traditionally mark the end of Shabbat during Hanukkah (the Jewish day of rest) by opening a new cask or bottle of wine. They then visit neighbouring homes, tasting the wines chosen and toasting the holiday together.
5. Festival of the Daughters
Chag Habanot is a special tradition among Mizrahi & Sephardi communities that celebrates girls & women.
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Some North African and Middle Eastern countries celebrate the Festival of the Daughters on the sixth day of Hanukkah – Chag HaBanot in Hebrew. It’s a celebration, where women and girls gather to recall Jewish heroines, sing and eat sweet treats.