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Hanukkah Celebrations to Experience While Teaching English Abroad
Written by: International TEFL Academy
Last Updated: January 5, 2021
How to celebrate Hanukkah around the world:
Celebrating the triumph of "light over the darkness, of purity over the adulteration and spirituality over materiality," the Festival of Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and nights beginning on the 25th day of Jewish month of Kislev, which coincides with late November – December on the secular calendar.
Hanukkah commemorates a 2nd century B.C.E. military victory of the Maccabees over their Greek rulers and like the story of David and Goliath is a celebration of a righteous underdog who prevails over a larger and more powerful enemy. The festival also commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, the holiest site in ancient Judaism.
Hanukkah is known as the "Festival of Lights" because each night of the 8-day festival is marked by the lighting of the candle on a special 9-candle menorah. According to tradition, the candle lighting commemorates the "miracle of the oil." When the Second Temple was rededicated, there was only enough oil to keep the temple candle lit for one night, but by a miracle it was lit for 8 nights.
Hanukkah traditions typically include the lighting of a candle on the menorah each night and the preparation of special foods, particularly fried delicacies such as potatoes pancakes called latkes and jam filled donuts known as sufganiyot. Gift-giving has become a major part of Hanukkah, especially in the U.S., where the holiday typically coincides with the Christmas season.
Today, Jews on every continent marked the “Festivals of Lights” with celebrations, blessings and fun, yet everywhere celebrations are a bit different, reflecting local traditions and the history of the local Jewish community. Here's more about Hanukkah celebrations in various locations around the globe.
As the Jewish homeland and site of the events that inspired Hanukkah, Israel is truly a unique place to celebrate the "Festival of Lights." The special significance of celebrating Hanukkah in Israel can be expressed by the words, “Nes Gadol Haya Po,” which means “A great miracle happened here!” While gifts are exchanged and special foods are prepared, Hanukkah in Israel is usually celebrated on a more subdued level than in the in the United States. Some families will visits 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.
Dnem Hanuki!!! Happy Hanukkah in Russian! A generation ago nobody would think it possible to celebrate Jewish Holidays openly in this country. During the pogroms of the czarist age and the repression of the Soviet regime, which discouraged displays of religious identity and faith of all types, Russia's Jewish community spent centuries living in fear, unable to profess their faith and display their religious and cultural traditions. However in the "New Russia" of the 21st century, Jews in Russia are now able to celebrate festivals like Hanukkah without fear of torment or persecution. This year the festival kicked off with the Chief Rabbi of Moscow lighting a grand menorah in the heart of Moscow, in Manezh Square near the Kremlin and public menorahs are lit in cities throughout the country.
There are more than 200,000 Jews in Germany who celebrate Hanukkah every year! Since 2003 a large menorah is lit on the first night of Hanukkah in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Given that it was once the site of anti-Semetic rallies during the Nazi regime, the event not only marks the beginning of a religious holiday, but symbolizes the changes that have occurred in German society since the end of World War II. Germany's Jewish community is just a fraction of the size that it was prior to the Second World War, but in recent decades it has become more vibrant and open in asserting its identity and traditions. Many German Jews celebrate by giving gifts, visiting friends and relatives and enjoying special foods and music. There is also a unique German tradition of taking the leftover wicks from leftover candle wicks and oil to build bonfires. The celebration is especially poignant as many Germans recognize the parallels between the Jews who suffered under King Antiochus in the 2nd century B.C.E., and the plight of German Jews during the Holocaust. Today, the celebration of Hanukkah provides a special occasion to celebrate the rebirth of Germany's Jewish community. Frohes Chanukka!!! Happy Hanukkah in German!
Argentina & Latin America
Given the strong Catholic identity of virtually every nation in Latin America, you may not realize it, but nations such as Argentina, Brazil and Chile have been home to substantial Jewish communities for hundreds of years. During the late 19th and 20th centuries thousands of Jews migrated to South America to flee the pogroms of Eastern Europe and later the repression of the Nazi regime. The largest population is concentrated in Argentina and in particular, Buenos Aires, where the Jewish community totals nearly 200,000.
In fact, the city is home to the only Kosher McDonalds outside of Israel! Other nations with substantial Jewish populations include Brazil, with 107,329 followed by Chile with 20,500. Communities in those countries celebrate Hanukkah in a special way, because in this part of the Southern Hemisphere Hanukkah falls during the beginning of the summer! In Buenos Aires, it makes for a great time to visit a neighborhood like Once& Abasto, which is home to a large assortment of Jewish grocers, restaurants and stores that come alive with festivity during the Hanukkah season. As in other parts of the world, Jews in South America gather to light candles, exchange gifts and visit with family. Feliz Hannukah!
Founded in 2010, International TEFL Academy is a world leader in TEFL certification for teaching English abroad & teaching English online. ITA offers accredited TEFL certification classes online & in 25 locations worldwide and has received multiple awards & widespread recognition as one of the best TEFL schools in the world. ITA provides all students and graduates with lifetime job search guidance. ITA has certified more than 25,000 English teachers and our graduates are currently teaching in 80 countries worldwide.
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