Hanukkah - The Festival of Lights and More
What comes to mind when you think "Hanukkah?" Is it a table full of presents, one for each of the eight days? Is it greasy "latkes" or "levivot", potato pancakes? Depending on if you're from Israel or not, your answer will vary! One thing that's for sure is we love Hanukkah no matter where we celebrate.
Hanukkah traditions really vary depending on where in the world you are. Outside of Israel, for many non-religious Jews, Hanukkah is the MAJOR holiday. Children receive a present or two each day because Hanukkah itself is around the Christmas season. Non-Israeli Jews aren't complaining but, this is certainly a different experience!
Food, food, food
Outside of Israel, we are familiar with the traditional Hanukkah foods -- specifically, latkes or potato pancakes. Most families make the greasy treat in honor of the holiday. In Israel, there are many different traditional Hanukkah foods! Along with latkes (levivot) doughnuts or sufganiyot are a HUGE part of this holiday. We're talking store window displays dotted with the round, sugar-coated treats. There is also sfenj, which is a Moroccan twist on the doughnuts. With so many delicious treats, we spend most of the month of December eating here in Israel.
Gifts & traditions
In Israel, it's customary to give gifts to friends and family, and some gifts to the kids, though we don't think it's quite as over the top as Hanukkah in America. Kids don't study during the week of Hanukkah although work goes on as usual for their parents! Oftentimes friends and families get together during the week to light the Hanukkah candles, and most businesses have a lit hanukkiah in the window. It's a special atmosphere!
Outside of Israel, Hanukkah is one of the "big" Jewish holidays for most of those who are non-religious! You might not do something for Sukkot or Shavuot, but for sure Hanukkah is on the calendar! It's a funny difference from Israel -- Hanukkah is of course celebrated, but work goes on as usual, and it's not considered the most significant holiday religiously. Either way, it's a lot of fun and we are so excited to celebrate!