Celebrating Hanukkah around the globe


by Patricia Raskin

In keeping with the theme of Hanukkah greetings this issue, I looked at greetings and customs from around the world. In the article “Beyond Latkes: Hanukkah Around the World,” on MyJewishLearning.com, writer Ruth Abusch Mander talks about the different observances in other countries.

In Alsace, France, there are menorahs with two levels and eight candle holders on each level so that fathers and sons can light their own candles in the same menorah. Wouldn’t this be a wonderful way to light candles for siblings, parents and children, and close relatives?

In Yemenite and North African Jewish communities, Hannah is commemorated on the seventh night for her sacrifice of seven sons.

This is also commemorated in honor of Judith whose assassination of the Assyrian emperor led to Jewish military victory.

In Morocco and Algeria and some communities in India, menorahs are hung on walls near the doorway on the side across from the mezuzah.  And in some areas of Jerusalem, menorahs are displayed outside through spaces cut into sides of buildings.

In Santa Marta, Colombia, a Jewish community started their own traditional Hanukkah recipe, using fried plantains instead of fried potato latkes (See page 15 for a recipe for plantain latkes).

Hanukkah  has been celebrated only in modern times in some Ethiopian and Indian Jewish communities that split long ago from the larger Jewish community before Hanukkah was a holiday.

I have always been curious about the origin of Hanukkah gifts which many of my friends received as children. Gift giving at Hanukkah time is primarily a North American custom.

Gabriela Fernandez, who writes about “Hanukkah Celebrations Around the World” on the International Telf Academy blog, offers more information.

She writes that Hanukkah in Israel is usually celebrated on a more subdued level than in the United States. “Some families will visit the sites of the events that inspired Hanukkah in Jerusalem and Modi’in.  Children often receive small gifts and sweets, including golden coins known as gelt. Unlike in the U.S., where most Jews are of European ancestry, Israel is home to a large population of Jews from other Middle Eastern nations such as Morocco, Yemen and Iran. Celebrating Hanukkah in Israel provides a unique opportunity to enjoy totally different Hanukkah specialties from these countries like Kuku Savri, an egg fritter prepared by Iranian Jews, and Svinge another type of fritter made by Moroccan Jews with chocolate and halva.”

Here’s to celebrating Hanukkah for all Jews in the world! 

PATRICIA RASKIN hosts “The Patricia Raskin Show” on Saturdays at 3 p.m. on WPRO, 630 AM/99.7 FM and on Mondays at 2 p.m. on voiceamerica.com. Raskin is a board member of Providence’s Temple Emanu-El.