Happy Holidays: Hanukkah around the world


Isabella Carrero-Baptista, Reporter

What puts the “H” in Happy Holidays? Hanukkah!  

But before we get into the fun stuff, a quick review of the holiday’s origin:

After the successful revolt to take the Temple of Jerusalem back from the Greeks by the Jewish Maccabees, the Jews went to light the temple’s menorah (the traditional nine-branched candelabrum) in celebration. However, they only had a one-day supply of olive oil to light it. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days and the menorah remained lit.

Here in the States, Hanukkah is often celebrated by lighting one candle of the menorah each night for 8 days and reciting blessings. The menorah is then usually placed on a windowsill for all to see. Gifts are also given to friends and family on each night. Fried foods are eaten, like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jam-filled donuts). 

Want to know a fun fact? Latkes were actually brought over to the U.S. by Eastern European Jews who happened to have a lot of potatoes. Who knows how Hanukkah would be celebrated here today if it weren’t for them? 

Like the Eastern Europeans, Jews around the world have merged their own countries’ cultures with their traditional customs. So let’s check them out!


Instead of using traditional olive oil, Indian Jews dip their wicks in coconut oil. Coconut oil is a much cheaper and more common option. Instead of eating latkes and sufganiyot, they snack on more native treats like burfi, puranpoli, modak laddus and samosas (p.s if you haven’t tried samosas yet, do yourself a favor and go eat some!).

Yemen/North Africa:

In these countries (Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco), it’s customary to celebrate the heroines of the Torah on the seventh night. It starts the Chag HaBanot, or the Daughters Festival, and celebrates heroines like Hannah and Judith. These women fought against anti-semitism and saved Jewish people from the Assyrians, who wanted to oppress them. Go girls!

These countries also put their own spin on sufganiyot by making sfenj, citrus-flavored doughnuts; the famous Jaffa oranges do come into season during this time. Sounds yummy!


What do you get when you cross Italian food and fried dishes? Deliciousness! Italian Jews feast on Precipizi, little fried honey-covered, olive oil infused balls. What could be better? 

Santa Marta, Columbia:

This Jewish community in Santa Marta popularized eating patacones, fried plantain slices, instead of latkes. I may be biased (Hispanic here), but these are my personal favorite on the list!


There is a long and oppressive history for Afghan Jews against the majority Muslim government. As a result, many have had to keep their faith hidden. Since the glow of the menorah would attract attention and potentially the authorities, it’s customary to instead fill small plates with olive oil and set them beside each other. While sad, this tradition serves as a reminder of these people’s hardships against oppression.


On a lighter note, in Hungary, Hanukkah is a big deal. Every year in Budapest the Quarter6Quarter7 festival is held, named after the city’s districts that make up most of its historic Jewish quarter. The celebration lasts for eight days, where the city showcases concerts, theater shows, and flash mobs. Restaurants even include special Hanukkah menus!


For this year, I encourage you to try celebrating the holidays in a different way than usual. Make patacones, try burfi, go out and party. However you celebrate, happy Hanukkah!